Atlanta-area man sentenced to federal prison for attempted stolen-car smuggling operation

United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Georgia, December 6, 2023

SAVANNAH, GA:  A Douglas County, Ga., man has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty in a scheme to smuggle stolen cars to Africa.

Prince Bediako, 41, of Douglasville, Ga., was sentenced to 28 months in prison after pleading guilty to Smuggling, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. also fined Bediako $1,000 and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“This sentence is a credit to our law enforcement partners who work hard every day to detect, intercept, and prevent the theft of goods and identities alike, and to hold those accountable who would attempt to smuggle goods through one of our nation’s busiest ports.” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “We applaud our law enforcement partners who safeguard this vital gateway to the United States.”

As described in court documents and testimony, on multiple occasions in 2020, Bediako aided a co-conspirator in the use of false and stolen identities and credit cards, including both fictional identities and those of unwitting individuals. The co-conspirator, using a false identity, would contact a dealership online and contract with them to ship vehicles from another state, after which the credit card payment would “bounce,” and the dealership would be left without payment.

Nineteen dealerships across the Southeast were identified as victims of this type of theft. Bediako arranged to transport the fraudulently obtained vehicles to the Port of Savannah, and then used the false and stolen identities to attempt to smuggle those vehicles to Ghana while concealing his own identity or participation in the scheme.

Personnel at the Port of Savannah intercepted the shipments.

“The Bureau of Industry and Security will not tolerate efforts to undermine the integrity of our export control system through the submission of false or misleading information,” said John Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, Office of Export Enforcement. “The Office of Export Enforcement will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to apply the investigative resources and utilize the authorities necessary to ensure compliance with U.S. export laws.”

“Our CBP Officers continually refine their skills, knowledge and awareness of current trends and techniques utilized by bad actors. These skills led to the interdiction and recovery of these stolen vehicles,” said Henry Deblock, Area Port Director in Savannah. “Their sustained efforts, training, and analysis, along with valuable collaboration among law enforcement agencies led to the success in this case. At the Port of Savannah, we take pride in our officer’s abilities to go past the point of seizure and build out the entire criminal network. That extra step is vital in dismantling these criminal organizations and putting these bad actors behind bars.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security Office of Export Enforcement; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Georgia Ports Authority Police Department; and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office; and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jenna G. Solari and Darron J. Hubbard.

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