Nine people from New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ohio used stolen IDs to get digital driver’s licenses that they used to finance more than $1.3 million worth of vehicles and water craft, Garden State authorities charged.
The defendants got the driver’s licenses from motor vehicle agencies in Jersey City and North Bergen using stolen identities of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Thursday.
They also used fake Puerto Rico driver’s licenses, along with other false documents to land big-ticket items at dealerships in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts while sticking the victims in Puerto Rico with the bills, Grewal said.
Altogether, the crew bought, financed, titled and/or transferred 26 motor vehicles and three watercrafts with trailers – one boat and two jet skis – using the licenses, Social Security cards, debit cards and birth certificates of the victims, he said.
The defendants include two New Jersey residents – one from Fort Lee and the other from Newark. The rest are from out of state.
Here’s how it worked, Grewal said:
After buying a vehicle on credit, the defendants “washed” the title by creating a fraudulent lien release or fraudulent title indicating there was no lien on it.
The fake document was then used to obtain a clean title in another state.
That clean title was then used to transfer ownership to another individual, often within the conspiracy, allowing the vehicle to be shipped overseas.
Ten vehicles were recovered in the United States, Grewal said, while at least seven others were shipped to the Dominican Republic.
The arrests were part of “Operation Export,” an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau that began with a tip from security personal with the state Motor Vehicle Commission, the attorney general said.
“This case highlights that fraud involving official documents frequently is tied to larger criminal conspiracies, including identity theft and financial fraud, among other illegal activities,” he said.
Federal law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and other states have uncovered the same or similar criminal activity and are pursuing charges against several of the same defendants as well as others, Grewal said.
Eight of the nine defendants charged in “Operation Export” fraudulently got the license and made the big-ticket purchases in New Jersey and other states, he said.
The ninth -- Reyfy Gonzalez -- conspired with the others in the document fraud and was involved in receiving and transferring stolen vehicles and watercrafts, Grewal said.
The defendants were identified as:
- Reyfy Gonzalez, 31, of Fort Lee;
- Willie A. Samuel-Baldayaquez, 38, of Newark;
- Taina G. Perez, 27, of Methuen, Mass.;
- Jose M. Irizarry, 44, of New Haven, Conn.;
- Ricardo Acevedo, 32, of Lawrence, Mass.;
- Andy A. Mazara, 27, of Lawrence, Mass.;
- Alvaro J. Alvarez-Capio, 45, of Lowell, Mass.;
- Guillermo Alex Cruz-Guerrero, 42, of Ohio;
- Tirson Ruiz, 50, of Lawrence, Mass.
Charges include theft, conspiracy and tampering with public records.
IIrizarry and Gonzalez were in custody in New Jersey, while Samuel-Baldayaquez was in custody in Connecticut and Cruz-Guerrero in Ohio.
The rest were in custody in Massachusetts except for Ruiz, who was deported.
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