SOMERVILLE, NJ – Three suspects have been arrested in the theft of game-worn NBA jerseys and NHL merchandise worth $850,000 from a Branchburg sports memorabilia dealer late last year.
Acting Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson announced the arrests of Mohamed Benhalima, 28, of Ford Street, Brooklyn, NY; John P. Schnell, 37, with a last known address of Whitney Avenue, Brooklyn, NY; and Ryan G. McDermond, 28, with a last known address of Parnell Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ.
Criminal complaints were filed in Somerset County Superior Court on Sept. 23 charging each of the defendants with 3rd Degree Burglary, 2nd Degree Theft, and 2nd Degree Conspiracy to Commit Theft. The complaints were originally filed under Seal pending the arrest of the defendants, according to Robertson.
The suspects were arrested in separate locations on Oct. 18 and Oct. 21.
Robertson provided the following account:
Branchburg police were called to the MeiGray Group at 185 Industrial Parkway in Branchburg the morning of Dec. 29, 2015. Company representatives told police that 400 game-worn NBA jerseys, prized by collectors, had been stolen, as well as National Hockey League merchandise.
MeiGray Group holds an exclusive contract with the NBA to act as the authenticator and retailer of game-worn NBA jerseys. MeiGray reported the loss of authentic game-worn NBA jerseys belonging to the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Lakers. The jerseys had been worn by notable NBA players Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Rudy Gay, and Andre Iguodala.
A lengthy investigation followed involving Branchburg police, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Burglary Task Force, and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It began with a tip received by Branchburg Police Detective Edward Edgar who was told that that stolen NBA Jerseys were being offered for sale over several internet sites. Edgar confirmed the tip, retrieved several of the stolen jerseys, and ultimately obtained the seller’s internet address and cellular telephone number.
During the next several months, detectives served numerous subpoenas and court orders on cellular telephone companies, internet providers and sites, shipping companies, and financial institutions, which ultimately led to the identification of the three defendants.
Police arrested McDermond without incident on Monroe Street in Philadelphia, Tuesday afternoon Oct. 18th. He was turned over to Philadelphia police pending extradition to New Jersey.
Detectives arrested Mohammed at his Brooklyn, residence Friday morning, Oct. 21st and that afternoon, a separate team of detectives arrested Schnell in midtown Manhattan. Mohamed and Schnell were both arrested without incident and turned over to New York City police pending extradition to New Jersey.
The investigation is continuing.
Robertson said the charges are currently pending a Grand Jury presentation. Since the defendants are incarcerated out-of-state, bail has not been set in New Jersey.