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17 Charged In Craigslist Car Theft Ring

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The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced that two residents and a Florida man are facing charges for organizing a vehicular theft scheme that targeted people selling cars on Craigslist.

Luther Lewis, 38, of Piscataway, New Jersey, Tyisha Brantley, 36, of Scott Plains, New Jersey and Justinas Vaitoska, 39, of Palm Beach, Florida, have been indicted on charges including first-degree promotion of organized street crime and other offenses in connection with the car theft network.

Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino says the case, dubbed “Operation Title Flip,” involves the theft of 10 vehicles valued at $248, 650. However the vehicles were sold to different dealerships for a total of $107,250 profit.

Investigators say the defendants enlisted the help of thirteen others to use fake bank checks to buy cars from private sellers. They would then sell them to dealerships around the state.

They also believe the suspects would coordinate their transactions for early evenings so it would be too late for the victim’s bank to deposit the money that day. Days after the transaction, the victims would then discover that the check was counterfeit.

The sales could not be traced to the intermediaries because they all used fake identification.

“Car thefts drive up insurance claims, which lead to higher premiums for everyone. By breaking up this alleged crime ring we are protecting honest citizens from having to pay the price for the misdeeds of others,” said Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu.