NEW YORK – Seven people were charged by criminal complaint in federal court Wednesday with conspiracy to export and transport stolen cars. The defendants allegedly oversaw the loading of stolen cars into shipping containers bound for West Africa.
The arrests follow a 19-month investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB) and Auto Crime Division; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
As a result of this investigation, HSI’s Border Enforcement Task Force (BEST), seized 249 stolen luxury cars worth more than $16 million. The high end cars include models from BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Range Rover.
According to court documents, Adama Kamara, Boubakar Sacko, Dambelly Sarjo, Lamin Saho, Mamadou Habib Diallo, Ousmane Tounkara, Oluwasoji Osho knew the cars were stolen, loaded them into shipping containers and moved the cars to a seaport for transportation to West Africa.
Individuals working for the scheme would rent luxury cars from various national car rental companies, sometimes using false identification. The renters drove the cars to a prearranged location for temporary storage. Other members of the scheme would then pick the cars up and drive them to a second location where the defendants oversaw and participated in the loading of the luxury cars into shipping containers. Shipping documents filed with CBP revealed the luxury cars were scheduled to be loaded onto cargo ships destined for ports in West Africa.
“This investigation prevented more than 200 stolen luxury vehicles from being smuggled overseas,” said NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton. “I commend the efforts of the investigators and prosecutors involved in this investigation whose hard work held these individuals accountable for their criminal conduct.”
“CBP, working in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations and the New York Police Department, demonstrated vigilance and exceptional skill in the targeting, detection, examination and seizure of these stolen vehicles directly leading to the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators,” said Mr. Robert E. Perez, director field operations New York.
The BEST is a multi-agency task force comprised of special agents, NYPD detectives and CBP officers to focus on disrupting border related criminal activity associated with narcotics smuggling; human trafficking and smuggling; money laundering; bulk cash smuggling; weapons trafficking and smuggling and other serious crimes.
The defendants were arraigned Wednesday in the Southern District of New York before United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.