John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and David Sundberg, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, today announced that on December 22, 2020, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned a five-count indictment charging JOSEPHER Y. CARTAGENA, 24, of the Bronx, New York, with offenses stemming from his alleged role in a car theft ring operating in Connecticut and New York.
Cartagena has been detained since his arrest on December 23. He appeared yesterday via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah A.L. Merriam and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.
As alleged in court documents and statements made in court, the FBI, Connecticut State Police and police departments in Connecticut and New York have been investigating a car theft ring that, for at least the past six months, has been conducting coordinated burglaries of car dealerships in Connecticut and elsewhere, often hitting multiple locations in one night. The group’s members drive from New York to Connecticut, force entry into car dealerships, steal vehicle key fobs, and use them to identify and steal vehicles. Group members also have burglarized mobile phone stores. Cartagena is a member of this group, which is believed to be responsible for the theft of more than 40 vehicles in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere. The value of the stolen property is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
The indictment specifically alleges that, on July 28, 2020, Cartagena stole a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon from a residence in Danbury and transported the vehicle to New York. On July 29, Cartagena and others broke into an auto dealership in Milford and stole multiple key fobs and a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which they drove to New York. On July 31, group members returned to the Milford dealership and used one of the stolen key fobs to steal a 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.
The indictment charges Cartagena with one count of conspiracy to possess and transport stolen vehicles, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years; two counts of transportation of a stolen vehicle, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count; and two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.
It is alleged that Cartagena has fled from law enforcement in high-speed car chases on multiple occasions. When law enforcement first attempted to arrest Cartagena on a federal arrest warrant, Cartagena dropped a firearm and was able to escape by ramming multiple FBI vehicles with his vehicle, which was stolen. Investigators apprehended Cartagena late at night on December 23 after an all-day search.
A court-authorized search of Cartagena’s residence revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars of suspected stolen merchandise and approximately $89,000 in cash.
U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Connecticut State Police, Danbury Police Department, Trumbull Police Department, Guilford Police Department, and Putnam County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department. The investigation is being assisted by several additional police departments.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Ruff.