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June 5, 2015Trenton, NJ, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

12 New Jersey men indicted in alleged cargo theft ring worth $1.5 million

TRENTON, N.J. — Twelve men have been indicted on state charges that they conspired in a $1.5 million series of thefts involving tractor-trailers loaded with various cargo, which the defendants allegedly stole and fenced.

The indictment resulted from a lengthy investigation titled “Operation Midnight Run” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New Jersey State Police - Interstate Theft North Unit and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice - Specialized Crimes Bureau.

An 11-count state indictment charges all 12 defendants with first-degree conspiracy.  Eleven of the defendants also are charged with first-degree money laundering, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, second-degree fencing, second-degree receiving stolen property, and third-degree burglary.  The first-degree money laundering charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.

The 12 members of the cargo theft ring allegedly worked together in various combinations to steal tractor-trailers containing cargo from the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  They allegedly brought the stolen cargo to warehouses and lots in New Jersey, Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Bronx, N.Y. 

The indictment further alleges that between June 2012 and April 2015, the defendants allegedly engaged in nine thefts and two purchases of additional stolen goods in which the total value of the cargo and tractor-trailers stolen exceeded $1.5 million.

The stolen cargo consisted of various items including; $120,000 worth of catalytic converters; $165,000 worth of Moroccan oil hair and body products; and $152,000 worth of GNC fish oil capsules.

“This case is an excellent example of how teamwork among state, local and federal agencies can disrupt these types of large-scale criminal activities and ensure that those involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly of HSI Newark.

The following 12 defendants were indicted:

  1. Yoanny Justiz, 32, of North Bergen, New Jersey,
  2. Luis Requena, 24, who was deported after his arrest in 2013,
  3. Marvin Quezada, 40, of Union City, New Jersey,
  4. Pedro Arias, 68, of Elizabeth, New Jersey,
  5. Horacio Llerena-Martinez, 55, of North Bergen,
  6. Osmay Perez-Herrera, 51, of New York, New York,
  7. Wilson Ferrer-Reyes, 51, of Union City, New Jersey,
  8. Hector Rivas, 38, of Union City, New Jersey,
  9. Kenneth Manus, 61, of Norwood, New Jersey,
  10. Angel Dominguez, 44, of Union City, New Jersey,
  11. Carlos Toriac-Almira, 36, of Union City, New Jersey, and
  12. Luis Marin, 46, of Union City, New Jersey

Ring members allegedly rented space at a furniture store on Route 22 in Hillside, New Jersey, which they also used as a location for their fencing activities. 

Osmay Perez-Herrera, who uses the name “Omar,” is co-owner of the Mi Pais Supermarket on St. Nicholas Avenue in New York, New York.  Investigators conducted two sting operations in which goods that were purportedly stolen allegedly were sold to Perez-Herrera for resale at various locations, including at the store.  The “stolen” goods consisted of $80,000 worth of perfume and 330 counterfeit North Face jackets. Martinez participated in the sale of the jackets to Perez-Herrera and collected part of the proceeds.  Martinez and Perez-Herrera are charged with third-degree counterfeiting in connection with the jackets.

“We allege that this ring was stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cargo and transporting it through New Jersey on a regular basis so that they could fence the stolen products and reap major profits,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Their conspiracy did not stop at our state borders, and neither did our investigation, thanks to our partnership with Homeland Security Investigations. We tracked these alleged thieves across three states and hundreds of miles of highway to ensure that they were held accountable for the full scope of their crimes.”

“Organized criminal syndicates are drawn to cargo theft because of the huge illicit profits that can be generated,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Working with the New Jersey State Police and our federal partners, we are aggressively investigating and prosecuting this underworld activity, which disrupts commerce, inflicts big financial losses, and frequently finances other crimes.”

“Truckloads of cargo have always been a lucrative target for organized criminal groups.  Our Interstate Theft Unit, along with our partners in Operation Midnight Run, are glad to have taken this group off the road and recovered large quantities of stolen goods,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000.  The first-degree money laundering charge carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000.  Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000 fine, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.  The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.