What to Know
- The five-month investigation, dubbed “Operation Botany Strike,” began Oct. 14 with a probe into a missing tractor-trailer hauling meat
- Troopers found the abandoned tractor-trailer later that day at a service area, and their followup investigation uncovered the theft ring
- A total of 11 men face charges including conspiracy and receiving stolen property
Nearly a dozen men have been arrested in a cargo theft trafficking ring that used stolen tractor-trailers to move more than $1 million in goods meant for retailers across the country to a New Jersey warehouse, where they were held until they could be sold domestically or overseas, officials said Wednesday.
The five-month investigation, dubbed “Operation Botany Strike,” began Oct. 14, when detectives from the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit began looking into the theft of a tractor-trailer, which contained $104,000 worth of meat, from a trucking lot in South Amboy.
Troopers found the abandoned tractor-trailer later that day at the Vince Lombardi Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike and began following leads, which ultimately uncovered the organized theft ring.
Over the course of the investigation, detectives found the thieves would transport stolen tractor-trailers from various jurisdictions throughout New Jersey to specific locations within a warehouse in Passaic. That facility served as the predominant location where the suspects would load and offload stolen cargo, as well as store the stolen tractor-trailers, officials said. Detectives also identified secondary locations in Little Ferry and Secaucus that served similar functions.
Ultimately, 16 loads of stolen cargo were recovered from 10 national retailers. The seized cargo ranged from clothing and granite to home goods, landscaping equipment and food products, officials said.
The suspects range in age from 26 to 60 and all live in northern New Jersey. They all face charges of receiving stolen property and conspiracy; one also faces a charge of fencing, which means knowingly buying stolen goods in order to later resell them for profit.
“The suspects operating within this theft ring stole anything they could get their hands on, driving stolen tractor-trailers filled with everything from clothing, granite and food products to predestined facilities where they would store and offload the stolen cargo, eventually selling it both domestically and overseas,” Colonel Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement. “This operation alone, headed by the State Police Interstate Theft North Unit along with our partners, recovered more than $1 million of stolen cargo and dismantled a lucrative crime syndicate, which was costing victim businesses and consumers millions more.”
Police departments in South Amboy, Lakewood, Newark, South Brunswick, Carlstadt, Kearny, Edison and Woodbridge assisted the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit in the investigation, as did the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.