Police & Fire

Operation Title Flip: Piscataway Man Charged as One of the Masterminds in Car Theft Ring that Targeted Craigslist

683d2c407ad83775bcbd_Operation_Title_Flip.JPG
Credits: NJ Attorney General's Office
683d2c407ad83775bcbd_Operation_Title_Flip.JPG

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Luther Lewis, 38, of Piscataway is facing charges as one of three ringleaders of an auto-theft network that preyed on people selling their vehicles on Craigslist.

New Jersey State Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced in a release on Wednesday that Lewis, along with Tyisha Brantley, 36, of Scotch Plains, and Justinas Vaitoska, 39, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida were indicted on charges of first-degree promotion of organized street crime and second-degree charges leader of an auto theft network, and other offenses in connection with the car theft network.

Thirteen others were indicted for their alleged roles in the criminal scheme that was the brought down by a multi-jurisdictional investigation dubbed “Operation Title Flip.” The case involves the theft of ten vehicles, valued at $248,650, between May and November of 2015. The cars were sold to dealerships for a $107,250 profit.

Sign Up for E-News

According to prosecutors, Lewis, Vaitoska, and Brantley enlisted the aid of intermediaries to use fake bank checks to “purchase” cars from private sellers then sell them to various car dealerships in New Jersey.

“These alleged con artists trolled the Internet in a quest for cars they could steal through their fraudulent scheme,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We will not let their predatory conduct go unpunished.”

“Car thefts drive up insurance claims, which lead to higher premiums for everyone,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “By breaking up this alleged crime ring we are protecting honest citizens from having to pay the price for the misdeeds of others.”

Lewis, Brantley, and Vaitoska were also indicted on charges of second-degree conspiracy and theft by deception. Also indicted on those charges were:

·         Milagros Jimenez, 54, of Haines City, Florida

·         Heather Cater, 20, of Woodbridge

·         Saint Hardy, 32, of Elizabeth

·         Deborah Rodgers, 32, of Carteret

Lewis, Brantley, Jimenez and Rodgers were also charged with second-degree impersonation. Lewis, Brantley and Jimenez were charged with third-degree attempted theft by deception. 

Under the direction of Lewis, Brantley, and Vaitoska, intermediaries posed as buyers interested in vehicles advertised for sale on Craigslist. After arranging to see the cars, the intermediaries “purchased” them by presenting the unsuspecting sellers with fake and/or stolen identification and a counterfeit Bank of America cashier’s check. The sellers, in turn, handed over the vehicles’ keys and title to the intermediaries.

The “buyers” typically arranged to purchase the vehicles in the late afternoon so that the private seller could not bring the checks to the bank that day. In the days after the "sale," the private sellers attempted to deposit the checks and discovered they were counterfeit, prosecutors said. The bogus sales could not be traced to the intermediaries because they had used fake identification.

Meanwhile, before the private sellers could discover the check was counterfeit, other intermediaries would take the vehicle titles to the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission office to transfer the title into their names.

After successfully flipping the title into the new names, the intermediaries would sell the vehicle to a car dealership for cash. After the transactions were complete, Lewis would pick up the intermediaries, take the sale proceeds, and pay the intermediaries for their role in the scheme, prosecutors said. Intermediaries were paid between $300 and $1,000 each.

The alleged intermediaries were indicted today a charge of fourth-degree falsifying records. They are:

·         Nikisha Goodman, 20, of Avenel

·         Stephen Hester, 48, of Orange

·         Chester Kinder, 62, of Newark

·         Tassan Howard, 32, of Newark

·         Kamilla Bunn, 20, of Elizabeth

·         Tanika Arrington, 30, of Newark

·         Javairia Jihad, 29, of East Orange

·         Yvonne McBride,38, of Newark

·         Marixa Medina, 31, of Newark

Another alleged intermediary, Nakita Savage, 28, of Newark, was previously indicted on charges of third-degree conspiracy, receiving stolen property, and fencing by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. 

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. First-crimes carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000; second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000; third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000, fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

Vets4Warriors Gives Struggling Veterans a Lifeline

February 18, 2018

Fatima Aguilar’s first day on the job at Vets4Warriors was anything but normal. A military veteran who’s currently enlisted as a Second Lieutenant with the New Jersey National Guard, she found herself in a potential suicide crisis situation as soon as she hit the phones.

“I started around three and a half years ago on the overnight shift, and my very first call was a US ...

South Brunswick: Volunteer Soccer Coach Charged With Possessing And Distributing Child Pornography

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – A volunteer youth soccer coach and former Sunday school teacher is charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, officials said Thursday.

FBI agents and local law enforcement arrested Waldo Milla-Guerra, 49, at his Kendall Park home Thursday morning after executing a search warrant, officials said.

Milla-Guerra, a volunteer soccer coach with the ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

Guest Column

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The ...

Diegnan: Computer Science Now Required in New Jersey Schools

February 23, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick Diegnan to require school districts to offer course in computer science and Department of Education to adopt changes to NJ Student Learning Standards in computer science has been signed into law.

 

“To flourish in tomorrow’s digital economy and society, our children should be learning computer ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, March 4, 3:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Staatskapelle Weimar

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey , New Brunswick

Motown the Musical

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, April 7, 2:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Arts & Entertainment

East Brunswick Public Library Holds South Asian Community Day of Wellness

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ— On Saturday, March 3, Cancer Support Community Central NJ Jersey (CSCCNJ) will be hosting a Day of Wellness at the East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center, ). This program is part of CSCCNJ’s South Asian outreach initiative, which is made possible by the Shri Krishna Nidhi (SKN) Foundation.

The Day of Wellness is being offered at no ...

Library Hosts Program On Joint Replacement Surgery

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital partner to present the special medical program “Considering Total Joint Replacement in 2018” at the library on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm.

Lead by board certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Kayiaros, the program gives a brief overview of arthritis of ...

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb

Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb (Altria, 2015)

 

Years later, after the tragedy, someone remembered the Dumb Supper and what had happened there. That was the cause of it, they said, because the ritual wasn't a game after all. It really was magic, but magic has rules, and she broke them. Even when they call it a 'senseless tragedy,' people always try to find a ...

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper with Danny Pellegrino (St. Martin's Press, 2017)

It's hard to go on a serious diet, one on which you expect to be successful and maintain a loss. Fortunately, in his new book Super Carb Diet, Bob Harper has given the weight watching world a sensible new diet plan to help achieve a healthy weight.

Harper, host of NBC's popular show The Biggest Loser, ...

EBPD: Safeguarding Students, Staff, and Residents in the Public Schools

February 20, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Police Department, in cooperation with the East Brunswick Board of Education, will be assisting the school security staff by providing police officers at our township public schools. It is the goal of the East Brunswick Police Department and the East Brunswick Board of Education to safeguard our students, staff and residents at our schools on a daily basis ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...