“Operation High End” was the name of a wide-reaching investigation conducted by law enforcement officers across New Jersey that yielded eleven arrests on Tuesday. A Bloomfield man, Matthew J. Policarpio, 24, was among the operatives charged.
According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the ring of thieves targeted high-end cars in affluent communities across New Jersey and later resold them or dismantled them for parts. The arrests took place Monday night at various locations in Essex County.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, the Newark Police Department and the New Jersey State Police conducted the investigation, aided by the Jersey City and Millburn Police Departments.
“Through hundreds of hours of surveillance, detectives determined that members of this organization would travel to affluent communities throughout northern New Jersey and would search for luxury automobiles,” stated the press release. “The thefts would occur during the early morning hours and most often, the vehicle owners had left the keys in the car.”
Several vehicles, including two BMWs, two motorcycles, a Porsche, a Ferrari and a Mercedes were seized for investigation and several have been returned to their owners. Most of the vehicles, however, were resold for a fraction of their value or dismantled for parts.
The following individuals were arrested and charged with conspiracy and theft in connection with “Operation High-End”:
- Miguel Vega, 21, of East Orange
- Jimmy Nunez, 31, of Newark
- Nathan A. Ocasio, 20, of Newark
- Matthew J. Policarpio, 24, of Bloomfield
- Efrain Rivera a/k/a Macho, 30, of Newark
- Junior Vazquez, 31, of Newark
- Luis Montalvo a/k/a “Moyo,” 46, of Newark
- Alexander Mayorga, 22, of Elizabeth
- Melisha Martinez a/k/a “MiMi,” 22, of Newark
- Freddie Munoz a/k/a Patricio Hernandez, 33, of Newark
In addition to the 10 adults, a 17-year-old male juvenile from Newark, who cannot be identified because of his age, was also arrested and charged.
“The individuals arrested have been charged with conspiracy to commit theft and receiving stolen property,” stated the release. “Additionally, Patrico Hernandez has been charged with being the leader of an auto theft network. The investigation is continuing and additional arrests are likely. Additional charges against those arrested are pending also.”
The investigation began in August 2011, when the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Newark Police Department noticed an unusual number of stolen vehicles being left in one part of the city had come from communities well outside the area.
“What stood out for them was that a lot of these vehicles were not being stolen locally,” said Samuel DeMaio, the director of the Newark Police Department. “Traditionally our stolen vehicle recoveries are from Irvington, Orange, Elizabeth. These were vehicles being stolen from an array of municipalities, literally from Ocean to Bergen County, with a large number coming from Bergen County.”
Newark police then contacted law enforcement in those communities, then various law enforcement agencies together launched Operation High End.
The ring was responsible for “about one to two thefts a week,” said Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Robert Imhof. “You go to a salvage lot, you buy a similar car, you get the title for that car, remove the VIN number and place it on the stolen vehicle.”
“When you have cases like this one come together, where criminals don’t know borders, where they go to other counties in other parts of the state to commit crimes and they come back to another county to seek refuge and plan additional crimes, it truly takes collaboration to be effective,” said Lt. Col. Matt Wilson of the New Jersey State Police. “One police department has a little bit of information, they share with another, and what would have taken years ends up taking months.”