Three men were sentenced to prison today as members of an organized retail theft ring that stole over $800,000 in jewelry in New Jersey and five other states. They were charged in “Operation Pandora,” an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice.
The following three defendants were sentenced today by Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County:
- Nestor Raul Avila-Martinez, 26, of Middle Village, N.Y, was sentenced to eight years in state prison. He pleaded guilty on July 5 to a charge of second-degree racketeering.
- Kevin A. Rodriguez, 25, of Queens, N.Y., was sentenced to seven years in state prison. He pleaded guilty on July 5 to a charge of second-degree racketeering.
- Bryan Osorio, 27, of Queens, N.Y., was sentenced to five years in state prison. He pleaded guilty on July 5 to a charge of second-degree shoplifting.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Carney handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Another defendant, Omaira Reina-Martinez, 22, of Maspeth, N.Y., pleaded guilty on July 5 to a charge of second-degree shoplifting. She faces a recommended sentence of four years in state prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 21.
The joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice began in May 2014, after the ring stole $219,000 in silver beads by breaking into a vehicle at the Clara Barton service area on the New Jersey Turnpike in Salem County.
Several of the ring members, including Avila-Martinez and Rodriguez, had followed the two victims, who stopped at the service area after a jewelry trade show in Mt. Laurel, N.J. A July 2015 indictment charged a total of seven defendants, including an unidentified woman, with eight thefts in New Jersey, including two additional thefts of jewelry with a total value of over $150,000, as well as retail thefts of cameras and a $5,700 bicycle.
The defendants were linked to more than a dozen other thefts in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and Rhode Island, including thefts involving more than $430,000 in jewelry. The New Jersey State Police received extensive assistance from the New York City Police Department and other members of a multi-agency task force that investigates retail theft organizations.
“Organized retail theft costs retailers across the U.S. billions of dollars each year,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “It’s easy to see how the losses mount when you look at the volume of jewelry thefts committed by this one crew of thieves. By teaming up with a multi-jurisdictional task force, we were able to track these prolific thieves and bring them to justice.”
“This theft crew would enter a store with a well-rehearsed plan of action in which certain members created a diversion, others acted as lookouts, and still others grabbed jewelry from display cases,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ve made excellent use of our racketeering and enhanced shoplifting statutes to send them to prison and end their multi-state crime spree.”
“The fact that this group traveled through multiple states and stole over $800,000 in jewelry proves that their crimes knew no jurisdictional boundaries,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The investigation, arrests, and prosecution should send a message that law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to work together to take down organized criminal networks.”
Second-degree charges of racketeering and conspiracy remain pending against three other defendants charged in the July 2015 indictment: Angie T. Rodriguez, 29, of Flushing, N.Y., Juan Carlos Ramirez, 36, of Queens, N.Y., and an unidentified woman known only as “Gisele.” Ramirez and Gisele also are charged with second-degree shoplifting and one or more counts of third-degree theft.
Shoplifting is graded as a second-degree crime under New Jersey law when it involves thefts of over $1,000 in merchandise committed as part of an organized retail theft enterprise. In addition, Angie Rodriguez and Gisele are charged with second-degree theft and third-degree burglary in relation to the Turnpike theft. The charges are merely accusations and those defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The thefts committed by the ring in New Jersey included thefts at two jewelry stores in Robbinsville in Mercer County. On Oct. 30, 2013, ring members including Osorio stole approximately $100,000 in loose diamonds from Tindall Diamonds in Robbinsville by distracting a clerk and reaching over a display counter to grab the diamonds. On Sept. 6, 2014, more than $50,000 worth of Pandora trademark jewelry was stolen by crew members from a case at Gifted Jewelry in Robbinsville. The crew members who committed that theft included Avila-Martinez, Kevin Rodriguez and Reina-Martinez.
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