A NEWSMAN WRITES: Despite what’s been published elsewhere, an associate of the notorious James Bond Gang who was arrested after a home burglary in Sparta the other night isn’t the current ringleader. In fact, if you want to know the truth: There isn’t even a ring.
The original James Bond Gang was a handful back in the mid-80s and early 90s, breaking into hundreds of homes in New Jersey, New York and along the East Coast and stealing millions in cash and jewelry. I would know: Thanks to great contacts and years of building trust, federal investigators confided in me to keep my yap shut while they assembled their case against the infamous crew.
When the big roundup went down, I had a major scoop stripped across the top of the front page.
But it wasn’t all FBI: It took a well-organized effort by the federal agents in tandem with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and local police to nail ringleaders Terence Lawton and David Kirkland and members of the gang. The case was brought by federal authorities, the charges stuck, and many of those caught did prison time.
Since then, various members returned to hitting houses after being released, while assorted spin-off crews and wannabes hit tony neighborhoods in Bergen, Morris and Sussex counties.
Hot for an angle, the media — and in some cases certain police departments — have played the “James Bond” card.
Yes, most of those arrested have been from Englewood or Teaneck, just like the original JBG. And their M.O. in most cases has been the same: case a neighborhood in a high-end car that won’t attract attention, bust through the front door, disable the alarm system, head straight to the master bedroom and bolt with whatever cash and jewelry they can find before police have a chance to get there.
But there’s a lot missing.
There’s no tricked-out BMW with a secret drawer housed on the dashboard’s passenger side just beneath where the airbag would be. There’s no cluster of halogens that emerge from behind a hinged license plate. There’s no grease jet positioned next to the tailpipe.
More importantly, there’s no Lawton or Kirkland directing operations.
“They commit JBG-style burglaries,” a law enforcement source familiar with the bandits told me, “but they don’t consider themselves JBG members.
“They must read some of these stories and say, ‘These guys don’t know what they’re talking about’.”
The difference with Jerry Montgomery — the man arrested the other night and immediately dubbed the current JBG boss – is that he has ties to the original gang’s founders.
“You could say he was grandfathered in,” the law enforcement source said, with a smile. “But he’s no leader.”
The mantle was taken up for a time by Daniel “Tokyo” Gatson, a close associate of Montgomery’s. Authorities said he led hundreds of break-ins, including one of Patrick Ewing’s Englewood Cliffs home and another in Alpine in which a state-record $830,000 in cash was swiped. Although not technically a Bond Gang member, Gatson – who was released from state prison in November – fit the same profile.
If anyone in the past several years would have been considered Bond Gang capos, it was Akeem “Light” Boone and his brother, Aasim (“Sean”).
But, like Gatson, both Boones have been taken out of circulation and are facing serious prison time if convicted. SEE: Authorities nab Englewood fugitive
Barely out of state prison two years, Akeem Boone was arrested two years ago with his brother former pro basketball bust Sean Banks of Englewood and Montgomery, of Teaneck, following a high-speed chase that ended when their SUV flipped.
Authorities said the quartet had $20,000 in jewelry and other booty with them from burglarized homes in Sparta and Jefferson Township.
Akeem Boone is still being held on more than $1 million bail in the Bergen County Jail following his arrest in October. Also at the Hackensack lockup is Aasim Boone, who’s been there on $250,000 bail since a November 2011 burglary arrest in Old Tappan, where police called in officers from Harrington Park, River Vale, Westwood and the Bergen County Police K-9 Unit, who found him trying to hop a cab.
The Sussex incident alone could put him back behind bars for up to 15 years.
Sparta police said they pulled over the black 2003 Chevy Trail Blazer, but Aasim Boone hit the gas and sped off, blowing through two red lights and hitting 90 mph at one point, before the truck hit a curb and rolled about a mile away. All four occupants were trapped inside.
They included Montgomery, was out on bail at the time for a Basking Ridge break-in, and Banks, a 2003 Bergen Catholic standout who starred at the University of Memphis before fizzling out with the Hornets, who were then based in New Orleans (now in Charlotte).
Just four months earlier, Orangetown police busted the Boones for having burglary tools in their car after they were stopped while cruising a neighborhood. With them was Montgomery.
The chase and arrest officially put the Boone brothers and other members of a large-scale burglary crew with criminal pasts on the radar of law enforcement agencies that stretched from Morris to Fairfield County in Connecticut.
Last October, members of a multi-jurisdictional task force that had been tailing them burst into a Williams Street garage near the King Gardens apartment complex in Englewood and grabbed Akeem Boone – at the time a wanted felon — and other accused crew members as they tried to crack open a stolen safe.
Banks wound up behind bars again, as well: Police arrested him for domestic violence last December, while he was awaiting trials on other charges that could send him to state prison for several years. SEE: Former Englewood basketball phenom Sean Banks in trouble again
The Boones rejected separate plea deals – one that would have put the elder brother (who drove the SUV) behind bars for 15 years and another that would have meant a five-year sentence for Akeem.
Montgomery rejected a five-year deal, too, in addition to a four-year sentence he was already facing for a burglary conviction in Somerset County. It may appear worth passing up to Montgomery, who spent 2006 to 2009 in state prison on a burglary conviction.
He was again free on bail when members of the task force grabbed him and two other suspects after an area home was ransacked Wednesday night. Like him, Montgomery’s two associates — Leevan Lawrence, 30, of Englewood, and 29-year-old Courry Rice of Hackensack — were familiar to Bergen County law enforcement from similar break-ins.
Police said the three tossed a pillow case filled with stolen jewelry into the woods before they were stopped.
As of this morning, they were still in the Sussex County Jail. Montgomery has his previous bail revoked – and upped to $500,000 cash.
“Some people just don’t know any better,” the law enforcement source said of those who call Montgomery a crime boss.
“We haven’t been able to prove an organizational pyramid with these guys for a long time,” he told me. “It’s not like one guy is sitting at the head of a table like the Mafia, with everybody reporting to him and him handing out lists of houses to hit.
“All along it’s been: Someone makes a suggestion and a group of guys heads out. One could be busy, or locked up, while another is out there.
“They’re JBG-esque at times,” he said. “But these guys aren’t an organization.”
PHOTO, TOP: Jerry Montgomery, courtesy Sparta, NJ, PD
INSET: Courtesy: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
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EDITOR’S NOTE: A Court TV program called “Masterminds” interviewed me for a show about the original gang.
I’m not going to critique the production values — the bamboo furniture in what’s supposed to be a Bergen County mansion; the mimeographed Benjamins; the “cops” (one of whom looks to be a granddad) in baggy BLACK uniforms, driving a “HIGHWAY PATROL” car; or the infamous Beamer itself — which was midnight blue and not cherry red. But it does provide a flavor of what the original JBG was about.
During his 2009 trial in U.S. District Court in Newark, it was revealed that Kirkland tried to get a film made about the crew’s exploits but discovered that Court TV beat him to it. Using a pair of widescreen TVs, federal prosecutors played the “Masterminds” program for jurors who later convicted him.
Here’s the episode, in two segments:
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