NEWARK, NJ — A Belleville man has admitted his role in a multi-state car theft and fraud ring, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced Sept. 9. Eric Morgan, 34, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court to an information charging him with three counts of wire fraud.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from November 2016 to March 2019, Morgan engaged in a scheme to sell stolen vehicles through internet-based marketplaces, such as Craigslist and OfferUp. For each fraudulent transaction, once a desirable vehicle was selected, the target vehicle was photographed, and a GPS tracker was attached to the vehicle in order to acquire a pattern-of-life of the original owner before the targeted vehicle was stolen. The target vehicle was then listed for sale online. Potential purchasers of the target vehicles responded to listings and scheduled in-person meetings to purchase the vehicles. Shortly before the scheduled meeting times, the targeted vehicles were stolen with specially made car keys and fraudulently sold to unwitting purchasers. On three occasions, Morgan, while posing as the lawful owner of a stolen vehicle, met the purchasers and sold them the stolen car while also providing them with a fraudulent motor vehicle registration and the specially made car key.
Morgan pleaded guilty to his participation in the sale of a 2010 Acura TSX through Craigslist on July 19, 2017; the sale of a 2015 Honda Accord through OfferUp on Nov. 23, 2018; and the sale of a 2016 Honda Accord through Craigslist on March 22, 2019.
The scheme to defraud involves more than 30 stolen vehicles, 29 of which were sold to unwitting buyers.
The wire fraud counts to which Morgan pleaded guilty each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2022.