ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth resident Pedro Arias, 68, has been indicted along with 11 others on charges that they conspired in a $1.5 million series of thefts involving tractor-trailers loaded with cargo, including clothing, beauty products, auto parts and beer, which the defendants allegedly stole and fenced, according to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. 

The theft ring operated in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The indictment, which was returned Thursday, stems from Operation Midnight Run, a long-term investigation by the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Border Enforcement Security Task Force.

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The 12 members of the cargo theft ring allegedly worked together in various combinations to steal tractor-trailers containing cargo. They allegedly brought the stolen cargo to warehouses and lots in New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Between June 2012 and April 2015, the defendants allegedly engaged in nine thefts and two purchases of additional stolen goods in which the total value of the cargo and tractor-trailers stolen exceeded $1.5 million.

Arias was arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike on Sept. 27, 2013, after he and other defendants allegedly stole the $100,000 worth of mozzarella cheese from a warehouse in Sayreville. It is alleged that he initially refused to stop the truck for police and subsequently tried to flee on foot.  Luis Requena, 24, who was deported after his arrest in 2013, Marvin Quezada, 40, of Union City and Yoanny Justiz, 32, of North Bergen were riding in a car immediately in front of Arias and also were arrested.

The Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau obtained an 11-count state grand jury indictment that charges all 12 defendants with first-degree conspiracy.  Eleven of the defendants also are charged with first-degree money laundering, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison. The group is also charged with second-degree theft by unlawful taking, second-degree fencing, second-degree receiving stolen property, and third-degree burglary. Carlos Toriac-Almira, 36, of Union City, N.J., is charged with first-degree conspiracy and third-degree receiving stolen property, but he is not named with the other 11 defendants in the first-degree money laundering count or the other counts specified. 

In addition to those previously mentioned, the following were indicted:  

1.      Horacio Llerena-Martinez, 55, of North Bergen, N.J.,
2.      Osmay Perez-Herrera, 51, of New York, N.Y.
3.      Wilson Ferrer-Reyes, 51, of Union City, N.J.
4.      Hector Rivas, 38, of Union City, N.J.
5.      Kenneth Manus, 61, of Norwood, N.J.
6.      Angel Dominguez, 44, of Union City, N.J.
7.      Luis Marin, 46, of Union City, N.J.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000.  The first-degree money laundering charge carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000.  Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000 fine, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.  The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.