TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that an Essex County man was sentenced to a lengthy prison term today for his role as a top member of a major international carjacking and stolen car trafficking ring that stole high-end cars in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa.
Saladine Grant, 43, of Irvington, N.J., was sentenced to 12 years in state prison, including four years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim in Union County. Grant pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity. In pleading guilty, he admitted that, he conspired with other members of the ring to transport and traffic in stolen vehicles.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore prosecuted Grant for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. He was charged in “Operation Jacked,” an investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police, assisted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and 12 other law enforcement agencies. Investigators recovered 160 stolen cars worth over $8 million, primarily at ports in New Jersey and New York. Twenty-six defendants were indicted in December 2014 on charges of first-degree racketeering, including Grant and other leaders and associates who shipped, fenced, carjacked and stole vehicles, or acted as wheel men who moved and hid the luxury cars. Eighteen defendants have pleaded guilty to date in Operation Jacked and are serving or facing prison terms ranging from five to 20 years.
“Grant was a top member of this dangerous crime ring, whose members routinely conducted armed carjackings to obtain the high-end cars they prized,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By putting Grant and his co-conspirators in prison, we’ve ended their reign of terror and, in all likelihood, saved lives.”
“Operation Jacked and Operation 17 Corridor a year later, combined with the work of the Essex County Carjacking Task Force, contributed to a dramatic reduction in carjackings, which were cut by more than half in the region,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This was excellent, proactive police work, which dramatically reduced a particularly dangerous form of street crime.”
“As a top member of a crime ring that often used violence as a way to take what they needed, it is more than fitting that Grant received this lengthy prison term,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Operation Jacked has significantly reduced crime in the region, making our streets safer and improving the quality of life for our residents and visitors.”
The ring targeted high-end vehicles, particularly luxury SUVs made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin. Twenty-seven of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings, a majority of which involved a gun or other weapon. Carjackers would often target victims by bumping their vehicles from behind on the highway. When victims stopped to address the situation, the carjackers would take their key by force or threat, or simply jump into the vehicle and drive off if the key was left inside. Other vehicles were stolen in “soft steals” from various locations where the thieves were able to steal them with one or more of their electronic keys or key fobs, which are critical to the resale value of the cars. Thefts occurred at carwashes and at airports, where drivers would leave cars running at terminals to unload luggage. In other cases, ring members obtained cars through fraud, using bad checks to buy cars from new and used car dealerships. In West Africa, the luxury vehicles trafficked by the ring commanded prices in excess of new market value in the U.S.
Shippers would load the cars into shipping containers, which were taken to ports for transport by ship to West Africa. Of the 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were recovered at ports, including Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y. The ring operated in multiple counties in New Jersey, including Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, Middlesex, Bergen and Somerset Counties.
Deputy Attorneys General Anthony Torntore, Michael King and Adedayo Adu are assigned to the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Torntore and Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel for the Bureau, presented the indictment to the state grand jury, under the supervision of Deputy Division Director Jill Mayer. Deputy Attorney General Susan Wolansky is handling the forfeiture action in this case. The investigation was conducted for the New Jersey State Police by members of the Auto Unit and other members of the Special Investigations Section, including Detective Sgt. Aaron Auclair, Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Bryan, Lt. Ron Micucci, Detective Cory Rodriguez and Trooper Nicholas Rubino.
The following agencies assisted the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice in Operation Jacked:
- Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department
- ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Newark (Border Enforcement Security Task Force)
- Union County Prosecutor’s Office
- Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
- Massachusetts State Police
- Delaware State Police
- Connecticut State Police
- Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
- Manalapan Police Department
- Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
- U.S. Customs & Border Protection
- Bayonne Police Department
- Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
- U.S. Marshals Service
Valuable assistance also was provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Defense Attorney: Kevin Flood, Esq., of Hillsborough, N.J.
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