YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A car burglary in Allendale led to the capture of a fugitive wanted in connection with an international ring that stole and carjacked luxury vehicles in New Jersey and New York and shipped them to West Africa, where they sold for significantly more than the U.S. sticker price.
Abdur Abdullah, 32, of Irvington was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and was being sought by the New Jersey State Police as part of a takedown earlier this year in which 140 cars were recovered and more than $8 million seized.
State authorities said he acted as a street-level fence for the ring.
A witness Wednesday afternoon called Allendale police after seeing Abdullah in the driver’s seat of her friend’s 2014 BMW parked in a garage, Sgt. Terrence Lawler said.
Abdullah took off after she saw him, the woman told police.
Surrounding departments were notified and, moments later, Saddle River police stopped a grey Dodge Charger with two occupants, Lawler said.
The driver, 27-year-old Attallah Ahmad, of Irvington was charged with being an accomplice to burglary and criminal attempt. She posted $10,000 bail yesterday and was released from the Bergen County Jail.
Abdullah, meanwhile, was turned over to state authorities. He’s charged in Allendale with burglary, criminal attempt and providing false information to police — for giving police a fake name that was corrected through fingerprinting.
Abdullah was wanted for his part in an auto theft and carjacking crime ring taken down by the NJ State Police in “Operation Jacked.” He was also wanted by police in Pittsburgh.
The NJSP arrested more than two dozen people following a 10-month investigation involving the state Division of Criminal Justice and assisted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Police, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and a dozen other agencies.
Charges include racketeering, carjacking and money laundering, among other counts, with bails ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.
The ring targeted high-end vehicles – particularly luxury SUVs – made by Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Jaguar and Aston Martin, and operated in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth and Union counties, acting NJ Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
Of the roughly 160 vehicles recovered, 140 were found at ports — among them, Port Newark, Port Elizabeth and Howland Hook Seaport in Staten Island, N.Y.
Twenty-seven of the recovered vehicles had been taken in carjackings — a majority of which involved a gun or other weapon — while the others were stolen from various locations where the thieves were able to steal them with one or more of their electronic keys or key fobs, which are critical to the resale value of the cars, he said.
Some of the crews targeted victims by bumping their cars from behind, getting them to stop and get out to exchange insurance information, Hoffman said.
They then stole the cars either by force — or simply jumping in and driving off if the key was left in the ignition, he said.
Thefts also occurred at car washes and at airports, where drivers left cars running at terminals while unloading luggage.
Cars were stolen from manufacturers as they sat on carrier-trailers in lots, and other times from car dealerships.
Valets at restaurants and other businesses were held up, so the thieves could ransack key boxes.
They also scouted wealthy neighborhoods for unlocked high-end cars that had a key fob left in the glove box.
And, finally, some wrote bum checks to buy the cars from new and used car dealers.
The crews ordinarily stored — or “cooled off” — freshly stolen cars for awhile in hospital parking garages, long-term parking garages, residential backyards, warehouses and private storage garages to make sure they weren’t equipped with tracking devices that could draw police to them, Hoffman said.
Once a vehicle was sufficiently “cooled,” it was moved to a fence, he said.
The stolen cars typically moved through at least two levels of fences before reaching their ultimate destinations, authorities said.
Carjackers and thieves, who worked in “theft crews,” typically were paid $4,000 to $8,000 per vehicle by street-level fences, who sold cars up the chain to higher-level fences, Hoffman said. Fences often used “wheel men” to drive the vehicles to different spots while prices were being negotiated, they said.
Shippers then loaded the cars into containers, which were taken to various ports for transport by ship to West Africa, he said.
Although most of the cars where shipped overseas, some were sold in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Hoffman said.
“This ring we took down was a double threat,” he said. “Its members committed carjackings that put the public in grave danger, while at the same time, through their fencing and shipping operations, they created demand that motivated others to commit carjackings.
“We hit them hard from both ends, completely dismantling their operations.”