05/30/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 13:23
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that TIHAJA ORTIZ-TUCKER, also known as "TJ," 19, of New Haven, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to carjacking and conspiracy offenses.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between March and July 2022, Ortiz-Tucker and others posed as interested buyers of motor vehicles advertised by Connecticut residents (the "victim-sellers") on Facebook Marketplace. On three occasions, Ortiz-Tucker and his co-conspirators arranged to meet in person with the victim-sellers for the purported purpose of test driving and purchasing the motor vehicles. At the conclusion of the purported test drives, Ortiz-Tucker and his co-conspirators stole, at gunpoint, the vehicles, as well as certificates of title, bills of sale, and other ownership documents. On at least two occasions, Ortiz-Tucker posed as the legitimate owner of stolen motor vehicles, advertised them for sale on the OfferUp online platform, and sold them to unwitting purchasers.
Ortiz-Tucker also participated in two carjackings of Uber drivers in May 2022. In both instances, an Uber driver picked up the carjacker in New Haven and drove to Wallingford where the cars were taken from the Uber drivers at gunpoint. Both cars were later recovered in the same area of Hamden.
Ortiz-Tucker was arrested on July 22, 2022.
Ortiz-Tucker pleaded guilty to three counts of taking a motor vehicle from a person by force, violence, and intimidation ("carjacking"), an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years on each count, and one count of conspiracy, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years.
Judge Arterton scheduled sentencing for August 22.
Ortiz-Tucker, who had been released on bond and residing with family members in California, was remanded to custody at the conclusion of the sentencing proceeding.
On May 2, 2023, Ruben Montano, 20, of New Haven, pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking and admitted that he participated in one of these carjackings in July 2022, and the subsequent sale of the vehicle. Montano, who is detained in state custody on unrelated charges, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Safe Streets Violent Crime Task Force, the Connecticut State Police and the Wallingford, New Haven, Hamden, Waterbury, and Bridgeport Police Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah P. Karwan and Tara E. Levens.
U.S. Attorney Avery encouraged those who sell and purchase items online, and need to meet an individual in person to complete the sale, to use a visible, monitored location. Contact your local police department to see if it offers a monitored meeting location, or search online for a nearby monitored location.