Chopped: Passaic, Bergen Garages Doubled As Destinations For Stolen Vehicles, Authorities Say

A group of towing and mechanic business owners in Bergen and Passaic had a lucrative moonlighting operation going before New Jersey State Police shut them down, authorities said.

TOP: Carlos Torres, 41, of Paterson / NOT PICTURED: Ranlley Tejada-Pena, 35
TOP: Carlos Torres, 41, of Paterson / NOT PICTURED: Ranlley Tejada-Pena, 35 Photo Credit: NJSP / BCJ

Workers at the off-hour chop shops in Paterson, Passaic and Elmwood Park altered stolen vehicles for resale and disassembled others to be sold as parts, state authorities said on Friday, June 2.

Fourteen people in all were arrested during quick-strike raids last week by the NJSP, assisted by the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Paterson police and several other local, county and federal law enforcement agencies.

Recovered during the raids and subsequent searches, authorities said, were six stolen motor vehicles, various stolen vehicle parts, stolen key fobs and license plates, an assault rifle, various drugs and a press used to cut cocaine and other drugs with adulterants.

The mastermind of the chop-shop operation, Dominican national Carlos Torres, 41, of Paterson (top mugshot) was charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen property, among multiple other counts.

He was processed at the Bergen County Jail before being immediately released, records show.

Thirteen others ended up released, as well.

Nearly all of them were charged with operating and conspiring to operate a chop shop, receiving stolen property and possession of an altered vehicle, among other offenses.

Most are from Paterson:

  • Juan Torres, 20;
  • Ranlley Tejada-Pena, 35;
  • Juan M. Jimenez-Gutierrez, 48;
  • Wilson Castro, 46;
  • Danilo A. Camilo, 26;
  • Freddy Tavarez, 43;
  • Edward Fernandez, 55;
  • Juan Sterling Jimenez Gutierrez, 44.

Two are from Elmwood Park: Edward M. Valdez-Nunez, 42, and Heriberto A. Rojas-Acquino, 25. Another is from Passaic: Yoelbi Velez, 34.

Two other Paterson men were arrested on drug and weapons charges, authorities said.

Junior Lopez, 22, and Adonis DeJesus Ventura Liranzo, 25, had heroin, an assault weapon and a large-capacity magazine, among other contraband, they said.

Lopez and Liranzo, like all the others, were released pending court action.

The case was outlined in a joint announcement Friday by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin with State Police Supt. Col. Patrick J. Callahan and Derek Nececkas, the interim director of the state Division of Criminal Justice.

“Auto theft is known to go hand-in-hand with other more serious crimes,” Platkin said, “which is why dismantling these criminal networks and prosecuting participants is essential to our goal of reducing theft and violent crime in New Jersey.

“By taking down chop shops that facilitate the sale of stolen vehicles, we’re interrupting the larger auto theft network and making our communities safer,” the attorney general said.

The investigation began in January, he said, when detectives from the State Police Auto Theft Task Force began investigating the statewide thefts of Hondas that were destined for chop shops in Paterson.

They quickly connected Carlos Torres to more than a dozen vehicles involved, then began identifying his accomplices, Platkin said.

The stolen vehicles brought to the shops were given bogus VINs so they could be “re-titled and later sold or disassembled for sale as parts,” the attorney general said.

Nearly three dozen stolen vehicles were linked to the operation, he said.

The raids were launched on May 23rd by members of the NJSP Motor Vehicle Crimes North Unit (as part of the Auto Theft Task Force), with assistance from the DCJ, NJSP T.E.A.M.S Unit, K-9 Unit, and Troop B Tactical Patrol Unit, the Passaic and Bergen county sheriff’s offices, police from Paterson, Passaic and Clifton, U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The task force includes members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bergen, Passaic and Ocean county sheriff’s offices and police departments from Newark, Paramus, Middletown, Fairfield, Marlboro, Middletown, Woodbridge, Westfield and Warren.

to follow Daily Voice South Passaic and receive free news updates.