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New Indictment Against Auto Theft Ring That Burglarized Car Dealerships in Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Union and Stole High-End Vehicles Worth $787,000

the staff of the Ridgewod blog

Trenton NJ, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced a new indictment in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force and Division of Criminal Justice that targeted members of an auto theft ring that burglarized car dealerships in four New Jersey counties—Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Union—taking key fobs they used to steal high-end vehicles from dealership lots.

The indictment comes one day after Acting Attorney General Platkin announced that the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) are expanding the Auto Theft Task Force by adding more detectives and prosecutors and by partnering with additional police departments from around the state. As crime rates rise around the U.S., Acting AG Platkin is prioritizing efforts to reduce auto theft as part of a larger strategy to reduce violent crime and protect the people of New Jersey.

The new indictment charges two men with stealing 10 vehicles and approximately $52,000 in cash from a car dealership in Irvington in June 2021. The indictment stems from “Operation Dealer No Deal,” an investigation by the NJSP Motor Vehicle Crimes North Unit, the DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau, and the Auto Theft Task Force. Today’s indictment and a prior indictment in the case charge a total of six defendants with thefts of 22 vehicles valued at over $787,000. Fourteen were high-end vehicles, including Mercedes, BMWs, Land Rovers, Audis, Infinitis, and a Ford Raptor.

“This investigation illustrates the nexus frequently uncovered by law enforcement between vehicle thefts and organized criminal groups,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “Car thieves not only cause big financial losses, as we see in this case—in many cases they use stolen vehicles in connection with additional serious crimes and violence. We are expanding the Auto Theft Task Force and taking other concrete steps to curb vehicle thefts and protect New Jersey residents.”

“This indictment is another important step in our prosecution of this prolific theft ring, whose members allegedly stole up to 10 high-end cars at a time after burglarizing car dealerships to obtain key fobs,” said Director Lyndsay V. Ruotolo of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to collaborate with the New Jersey State Police and our other partners in the Auto Theft Task Force to arrest the thieves who are stealing cars and, in many cases, engaging in other criminal activity that threatens our communities.”

“The suspects arrested during this operation allegedly accumulated stolen vehicles worth almost a million dollars from these high-end auto thefts, and as a result of this investigation, these criminals were stopped in their tracks,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Although these auto theft enterprises are always evolving and using different methods to fund their networks, we will continue to adapt and work with our partners to take down these criminals.”

The DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau today obtained a state grand jury indictment charging these two men with second-degree conspiracy and third-degree burglary:

  1. Brian Peppers, 30, of Newark, N.J.
  2. Shareiff N. Copeland, 26, of East Orange, N.J.

It is alleged that Peppers and Copeland participated—along with other individuals who remain under investigation—in the theft of 10 vehicles and a safe containing approximately $52,000 in cash from a car dealership in Irvington on June 4, 2021. Copeland and Peppers were initially charged by complaint-warrant on Nov. 16, 2021.

Operation Dealer No Deal also led to the indictment on Nov. 10, 2021 of Peppers and the following four men:

  1. Khiree A. Smith, 30, of Newark, N.J.
  2. Kaiyir T. Green, 19, of Newark, N.J.
  3. Alquan A. Harris, 22, of East Orange, N.J.
  4. Tyheem A. Pollard-Raines, 27, of Blackwood, N.J.

The November 2021 indictment charges the five named defendants with the theft of five vehicles from a Jersey City dealership on June 10, 2021; the theft of six vehicles from an Englewood dealership on June 14, 2021; and the theft of a vehicle from a driveway in Moorestown, N.J., on May 19, 2021. The theft ring also allegedly broke into a dealership in Hillside, N.J., on June 10, 2021, stealing non-functioning key fobs. The prior indictment charges the five defendants with second- or third-degree counts of theft, receiving stolen property, and burglary. All except Pollard-Raines are also charged with second-degree conspiracy.

In addition, Peppers and Smith are charged with second-degree eluding. During the course of the investigation, Peppers allegedly eluded a New Jersey state trooper in East Brunswick on June 10, 2021, and Smith allegedly eluded a patrol officer of the Oceanport Police Department on June 11, 2021. Each defendant allegedly drove away at high speed when the officer attempted to make a vehicle stop.

The November 2021 indictment is posted here.

Peppers, Smith, and Harris are being held in jail pending trial. Copeland, Green, and Pollard-Raines were released from custody.

Deputy Attorney General Danielle Scarduzio is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith, Bureau Chief Erik Daab, and DCJ Deputy Director Annmarie Taggart.

The investigation by the New Jersey State Police Motor Vehicle Crimes North Unit (MVCNU) and Auto Theft Task Force was led by Task Force member Detective Robert Dinsmore, who is on loan from the Warren Township Police Department. The Task Force is supervised by members of the New Jersey State Police MVCNU.

Acting Attorney General Platkin thanked all of the members of the New Jersey State Police MVCNU, the Auto Theft Task Force, and the many police departments across New Jersey who provided investigative assistance and support.

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Defense Attorneys

  • For Peppers: John Doyle, Esq.
  • For Copeland: Christian Cannon, Esq.
  • For Smith: Ilene McFarland, Esq.
  • For Harris: Husain A. Gatlin, Esq.
  • For Green: Susan C. Cassell, Esq.
  • For Pollard-Raines: Michael J. Maher, Esq.
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