TRENTON, NJ — Following an investigation conducted by the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force and the Division of Criminal Justice, four Newark men were indicted on July 27 in connection with the theft of at least 14 vehicles in Livingston and other areas of northern and central New Jersey, according to Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

The Livingston Police Department took to Facebook this week to thank the New Jersey State Police for their assistance in the recent stolen vehicle investigation in Livingston and beyond.  

Porrino announced that the four men—identified as Kelvin Vega, 25, Jonathan Vega, 24, Carlos Sanchez, Jr., 18, and Bilal Cureton, 27—were indicted on charged that they conspired to steal numerous luxury cars that they attempted to load onto cargo ships or fence in other states.

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In a state grand jury indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the men were charged with second-degree counts of conspiracy, financial facilitation of criminal activity, fencing, receiving stolen property and theft by unlawful taking. They were also charged with third-degree burglary, and Cureton was charged with third-degree attempted theft by unlawful taking.

According to a press release issued by the Office of the Attorney General, the defendants stole numerous high-end vehicles, including models of Mercedes and BMW, and parked them in various locations like a hotel in Elizabeth until they were certain the vehicles were not equipped with tracking devices. The vehicles were then moved to either a loading location (usually in Irvington) to be shipped or were fenced domestically. The release also states that several stolen vehicles were recovered from shipping containers prior to being placed on cargo vessels.

The defendants were directly linked to thefts of at least 14 vehicles with a combined estimated value of more than $800,000, according to the attorney general. Vehicles were stolen in New Jersey from Livingston, Morristown, Long Hill, Jamesburg, Holmdel, Closter, Princeton and Mahwah in addition to one stolen vehicle that was traced to Louisiana and other vehicles recovered in Maryland and Ohio.

“These men allegedly scoured wealthy residential areas for the luxury cars they prized, typically stealing them right from their owners’ driveways,” said Porrino. “This was big business for these defendants, but our Auto Theft Task Force has taken down their alleged conspiracy.”

According to Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, the department has arrested “scores of car thieves, including violent carjackers” over the past several years through joint investigations with the New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement partners. While protecting valuable property, Honig said the Division of Criminal Justice has also made residents safer by putting these criminals behind bars and breaking up their operations.

“These callous defendants targeted suburban residents and luxury car owners for their own financial gain,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the State Police Interstate Theft Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice and their task force partners, we were able to put an end to this real-life 'Grand Theft Auto' scheme.”

According to the attorney general, a second-degree charge carries a sentence of five-to-10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. A third-degree charge carries a sentence of three-to-five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The indictment—which was handed up to a superior court judge in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Morris County—is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They will appear in court for arraignment at a later date. 

The above photos were provided by the State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.