Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Judge Sentences 7 Tied in Theft Ring

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Judge Sentences 7 Tied in Theft Ring

Article excerpt

Seven men were sentenced in state court on Friday for their roles in a ring that stole and fenced more than $1.5 million worth of cargo from tractor-trailers throughout the tri-state area.

These defendants are among 12 who were charged June 4, 2015, in what has been dubbed Operation Midnight Run, a joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police Interstate Theft North Unit, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Border Enforcement Task Force. Nine defendants have pleaded guilty, so far.

Judge James J. Guida sentenced Yoanny Justiz, 33, of North Bergen, whom Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad deemed "most culpable," to nine years in state prison. He pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to second-degree conspiracy.

Guida told Justiz that he was "intimately and intricately involved," using his "career as a truck driver to facilitate the crimes."

"We're not talking minor criminal activity," the judge said. "Here he is implicated in at least five transactions where he was the driver of the truck."

Guida also noted that at least five of the defendants are of Cuban origin.

"Whether they knew each other from the old country or not," he said, "they all got together here after fleeing from Cuba."

Luis Marin, 47, of Union City who pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to second-degree receiving stolen property was also sentenced to nine years.

Several of the defendants have extensive criminal records. Pedro Arias, 69, of Elizabeth has a record dating back to 1984, Guida said. He was sentenced to five years for a Jan. 25 guilty plea to second-degree theft.

Horacio Llerena-Martinez, 55, of North Bergen was sentenced to eight years for his Nov. 30 guilty plea to second-degree conspiracy.

Guida said that Llerena-Martinez, a convicted sex offender, has a criminal history that dates back to the time he entered this country.

"He came in here having fled the Cuban army and entering as a political asylum," the judge said. …

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