Some of the cars stolen in the Tri-State area share one thing in common - they end up at the Port of Newark where international criminal organizations ship them to West Africa to be sold at a premium, Eyewitness News has learned.
Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne spent a day with officers from Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, seeing how they track down and seize shipping containers packed with potentially stolen vehicles.
"A lot of what happens, before we even do those exams, happens before the trucks even get to the port," Newark CBP Port Director TenaVel Thomas explained. "We're able to look at the data - advanced data that we have. We're able to look at trends."
HSI said in 2023, it has already seized about 300 stolen vehicles at the Port of Newark - a 32% increase from last year.
Federal authorities said stolen vehicles are a threat to national security because the money generated from selling the cars is used to sell and run guns in other countries and has connections to terrorist organizations.
HSI said it believes 10 percent of the country's stolen cars are exported or are attempted to be exported out of the country.
They said the top stolen cars from our area destined for West Africa are BMWs, Land Rovers and Range Rovers because they can be sold for the most money and handle well in rough terrain. Stolen Hondas are typically shipped to the Dominican Republic, they said.