Five men have been charged with trafficking at least a dozen stolen cars worth about $600,000 as the state expands efforts to crack down on similar thefts, officials said Friday.
In a “vast majority” of thefts last year, police say, the cars were stolen because the owner left the key fob inside, officials said earlier this month.
Quamir Hodges, 24, of Montclair, Dion Wiggins, 21, and Zaquan T. Wright, 19, both of Newark, Adrian Goolcharran, 37, of Jersey City, and Burdley Jean, 41, of Union City , were charged with second or third degree receiving stolen property, according to the 19-count grand jury indictment.
Hodges and Wiggins were also accused of stealing a 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport worth around $90,000 from a restaurant in Margate – where it was left with the key fob inside, a said the police.
Friday’s charges came more than two weeks after state authorities announced they would step up enforcement amid a spike in auto thefts in New Jersey, the acting attorney general Matthew Platkin warning that a car stolen from your driveway today could be used in a shooting tomorrow.
Auto theft is “not an urban problem or a suburban problem,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin told NJ Advance Media in early March. “It’s a statewide problem, and it’s driving violent crime.”
In 2021, 14,320 vehicles were reported stolen in New Jersey, a 22% increase from 2020, which also saw an increase from the previous year, according to state police data. It’s part of a nationwide trend that the National Insurance Crime Bureau has called “unprecedented.”
While announcing Friday’s charges, Platkin reiterated that the state was expanding its multi-agency auto theft task force that has been operating in New Jersey since 2015.
“The biggest spike in car thefts involves luxury vehicles such as Land Rovers, BMWs and other stolen cars allegedly trafficked by these defendants. We will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to investigate and prosecute car thieves and protect the public from this growing threat,” Platkin said in a statement.
The five men charged on Friday allegedly conspired to ‘steal, receive and/or fence’ at least a dozen mostly high-end vehicles – including Land Rovers, BMWs, Jeeps and an Audi Q8 – worth $100,000. about $600,000, authorities said.
“These defendants allegedly sought out luxury car owners for their own financial gain, but through the collaborative efforts of our detectives and task force partners, we were able to put an end to this high-end car theft ring. “Colonel Patrick Callahan, the state police superintendent, said in a statement.
Hodges, Wiggins and Wright allegedly conspired to receive several stolen vehicles in at least seven counties – Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth and Atlantic – between September and December last year, police said.
An investigation revealed that Hodges and Wright allegedly provided Goolcharran with a stolen 2018 Range Rover to drive out of state in Jean’s name, authorities said. Hodges, Wright, Jean and Goolcharran were charged with conspiracy, trafficking in stolen property and receiving stolen property in connection with the Range Rover.
A search warrant, which was executed in December according to police, found a stolen Dodge Charger, a defaced semi-automatic handgun, a loaded illegal high-capacity magazine and a “small amount” of fentanyl at a business in Newark body shop owned by Hodges. . He was charged with drug and weapons offences, including possession of a weapon as a convicted felon.
Hodges, Wiggins and Jean had already been arrested and held in custody pending trial, authorities added on Friday. Arrest warrants have been issued for Wright and Goolcharran.
More information on the indictment can be found here.
SP Sullivan, NJ Advance Media reporter, contributed to this report.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.