NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced that a grand jury in Middlesex County handed up five indictments on Wednesday charging six individuals with having various roles in five home invasions that targeted families of Asian-Indian descent in Old Bridge, Edison and South Plainfield.
“I’m very happy and proud that our Middlesex County Prosecutor did find evidence and is prosecuting based on bias crimes in addition to all the other counts,” Edison Councilwoman Sapana Shah said. “Every crime is a crime of opportunity, however it changes when the victims are being targeted on based on race, ethic and religion.”
The indictments, handed up in New Brunswick, charge all six defendants with conspiracy to commit bias intimidation, robbery and burglary for selecting the five families whose homes were ransacked at gunpoint between October 20, 2014 and November 29, 2014.
“After the initial arrests were made in the case, our continuing investigation brought to light additional facts that enabled us to present evidence of bias crimes to the grand jury,” Carey said, noting such charges had not been filed previously.
“Investigators from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and a number of other law enforcement agencies worked carefully and diligently to secure this additional evidence, and have my sincere thanks and appreciation,” Prosecutor Carey said.
A total of 103 counts are included in the five indictments and, in addition to conspiracy, charge the defendants with counts of bias intimidation, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, theft by unlawful taking, and hindering their own apprehension.
“In this case you had three classifications, in which these individuals decided to invade these people’s homes basically and pistol whip them and tie up their small children in the house,” Shah added. “Now at the juncture, I’m hoping the justice system takes over and I have faith in our jurors if the evidence is presented and these individual are convicted.”
Not all of the defendants are charged with all the counts in the indictments, but are accused of various charges in the indictments, depending on their roles in some, or all of the home invasions.
The defendants were identified by the grand jury as Chaka Castro, also known as Catina Dennings, 39, Juan Olaya, 34, Octavius Scott, 22, Johnisha Williams, 19, and Justin Johnson, 25, all of Houston, Tex., and Jakeyra Augustus, 21, of North Texas City, Tex.
Bail has been set for each of the defendants at $1.25 million.
Prosecutor Carey said members of the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey State Police, the Old Bridge, South Plainfield and Edison police departments, and law enforcement authorities in Georgia, Michigan, New York and Texas participated in the investigation.
The defendants were charged during the investigation in which Agent John Selesky and Detective John Marotta, both of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, determined that Castro targeted specific homes in the three Middlesex County communities and then directed her co-defendants to commit the crimes.
Scott and Olaya entered each of the homes at gunpoint, restrained the families, and fled with stolen items in each of the five home invasions. They also threatened homeowners and smashed cell phones to prevent victims from calling police. Johnson and Augustus assisted in some of the home invasions.
In all but the home invasion in Old Bridge on November 29, 2014, Williams waited outside the homes and drove their accomplices from the crime scenes.
In addition to the November 29, 2014, home invasion, the defendants were charged with committing home invasions in Old Bridge on October 20, 2014, and October 26, 2014, in South Plainfield on October 28, 2014, and in Edison on October 30, 2014.
The investigation is active and is continuing. Anyone with information is urged to call their local police, or Agent Selesky of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3439, or Detective Marotta of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745- 3331.
“I hope Prosecutor Carry put s best prosecutor on the case and brings this case home,” Shah concluded.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the six individuals identified in the indictments are presumed innocent until proven guilty.