Top Member of Carjacking Ring That Trafficked Luxury Cars to West Africa Sentenced to 14-Year Prison Term
Top Member of Carjacking Ring That Trafficked Luxury Cars to West Africa Sentenced to 14-Year Prison Term “Operation Jacked” resulted in recovery of 160 stolen cars worth more than $8 million
A Essex County man was sentenced to a lengthy prison term today for his role as a top member of a major international carjacking and stolen car trafficking ring that stole high-end cars in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa.
Kyle Champagnie, 30, of Irvington, N.J., was sentenced today to 14 years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim in Union County. Champagnie pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity. In pleading guilty, he admitted that, as a leading member of the carjacking ring, he conspired with other members of the ring to transport and traffic in stolen vehicles.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Torntore prosecuted Champagnie for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. He was charged in “Operation Jacked,” an investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police, assisted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and 12 other law enforcement agencies. Investigators recovered 160 stolen cars worth over $8 million, primarily at ports in New Jersey and New York. Twenty-six defendants were indicted in December 2014 on charges of first-degree racketeering, including Champagnie and other leaders and associates who shipped, fenced, carjacked and stole vehicles, or acted as wheel men who moved and hid the luxury cars. Eighteen defendants have pleaded guilty to date in Operation Jacked and are serving or facing prison terms ranging from five to 20 years.
“Champagnie and his co-conspirators in this prolific crime ring used whatever means were expedient to steal luxury cars, including brutal carjackings,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By putting the leaders of this dangerous ring in prison for lengthy terms, we’ve made the many communities they targeted safer and, in all likelihood, saved lives.”
“Operation Jacked and Operation 17 Corridor a year later, combined with the work of the Essex County Carjacking Task Force, had an immediate impact on carjackings in the region, reducing them by more than half,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By keeping the leaders of these theft rings in prison for many years, we’re keeping the lid on this dangerous form of street crime.”
“There is a ripple effect from the success of Operation Jacked, which is still felt today because our residents are much safer as we continue to put defendants behind bars,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “As a top ringleader of this illicit trafficking ring, it’s only fitting that Champagnie was dealt a stiff prison sentence that will keep him behind bars for years.”
The ring targeted high-end vehicles, particularly luxury SUVs made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin. Twenty-seven of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings, a majority of which involved a gun or other weapon. Carjackers would often target victims by bumping their vehicles from behind on the highway. When victims stopped to address the situation, the carjackers would take their key by force or threat, or simply jump into the vehicle and drive off if the key was left inside. Other vehicles were stolen in “soft steals” from various locations where the thieves were able to steal them with one or more of their electronic keys or key fobs, which are critical to the resale value of the cars. Thefts occurred at carwashes and at airports, where drivers would leave cars running at terminals to unload luggage. In other cases, ring members obtained cars through fraud, using bad checks to buy cars from new and used car dealerships. In West Africa, the luxury vehicles trafficked by the ring commanded prices in excess of new market value in the U.S.
Shippers would load the cars into shipping containers, which were taken to ports for transport by ship to West Africa. Of the 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were recovered at ports, including Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y. The ring operated in multiple counties in New Jersey, including Essex, Union, Morris, Monmouth, Middlesex, Bergen and Somerset Counties.
Deputy Attorneys General Anthony Torntore and Michael King are assigned to the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Torntore and Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel for the Bureau, presented the indictment to the state grand jury, under the supervision of Deputy Division Director Jill Mayer. Deputy Attorney General Susan Wolansky is handling the forfeiture action in this case. The investigation was conducted for the New Jersey State Police by members of the Auto Unit and other members of the Special Investigations Section, including Detective Sgt. Aaron Auclair, Detective Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Bryan, Lt. Ron Micucci, Detective Cory Rodriguez and Trooper Nicholas Rubino.
The following agencies assisted the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice in Operation Jacked:
Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police Department
ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Newark (Border Enforcement Security Task Force)
Union County Prosecutor’s Office
Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
Massachusetts State Police
Delaware State Police
Connecticut State Police
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
Manalapan Police Department
Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Bayonne Police Department
Hudson County Sheriff’s Office
U.S. Marshals Service