JERSEY CITY, N.J. - More than a decade ago they were called the largest gang ever to attack North American railroads and gained enough notoriety to be the subject of a television documentary. Now, prosecutors in northern New Jersey say their ringleader is back at it.
In an age when cyber-criminals can make millions with a few keystrokes, railroad cargo theft is an anachronism, evoking images of six-shooters and 10-gallon hats. But it has not disappeared entirely, as demonstrated by details provided by the Hudson County prosecutor's office, which announced the arrests of the so-called "Conrail Boyz" gang Thursday.
The 10 people arrested ran an enterprise that targeted shipping containers on CSX and Norfolk Southern trains, cutting locks and stealing high-end merchandise such as clothing, designer shoes, sneakers, watches, cologne, liquor and electronics, acting Hudson County Prosecutor Gaetano Gregory said.
Sometimes, the gang members would ride trains for miles, unloading goods from moving cars, according to the prosecutor's office. The goods were then loaded onto vans that would take them to garages in Jersey City and North Bergen, the office said.
Authorities say they tracked the group for nearly four months and followed the stolen goods to customers.
Authorities charged 40-year-old Edward Mongon, of Jersey City; 37-year-old John Forcum, of Parsippany; and 30-year-old Elie Kammo, of Union City, with being leaders of a cargo theft network, burglary, cargo theft and fencing. Two others are charged with cargo theft and five others are charged with theft, fencing and receiving stolen property. Attorneys for the defendants couldn't immediately be located.
Mongon was one of about two dozen people arrested in 2003 and charged with similar crimes. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2004 to 13 years in prison.
According to authorities at the time, the gang had operated for a decade and stole millions of dollars in goods using tactics similar to those alleged this week. Some members jumped on slow-moving container cars to find valuable cargo, then radioed the information to cohorts, who imitated rail workers to ask dispatchers which siding the train was headed for. Once stopped, they tossed the merchandise into nearby trucks.
In one January 2001 robbery, thieves drove a container with 17,496 Sony PlayStation units, worth $5 million, out of a rail yard.
The gang took its name from the railroad whose northeastern freight routes were divided between Norfolk Southern and CSX in 1999. Members wore ski caps monogrammed with "CRB," according to authorities at the time.
The group was the subject of a 2005 episode of the cable TV show "Masterminds."