Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cargo Theft - The 'Cuban Mob'

Cargo thief Abel Rivas (white T-shirt) visits Cuba, renting a Mercedes and sporting a Rolex.
In the middle of a powerful March storm that was lashing the East Coast with rain and wind, a tractor-trailer backed into a loading dock at a secluded warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. It was late on a Saturday night. Before dawn, thieves had made off with $76 million worth of pharmaceuticals—the largest theft in the state’s history. A criminal group known as the Cuban Mob were experts at their trade. They targeted facilities that stored drugs, cigarettes, and consumer electronics. They understood how to conduct surveillance, were proficient at recognizing and disarming alarm systems, and they knew how to load and move freight quickly.
After the tractor-trailer pulled in, two of the burglars carried a ladder to the building. They climbed the warehouse and cut a hole in the roof. Using ropes, they lowered themselves in and disabled the alarm system. To anyone monitoring the system remotely, it looked as if the storm had knocked out the power. What warehouse employees discovered when they arrived at work was the ladder, the hole in the roof, some discarded tools, and the alarm system beeping as if it needed a battery. They also discovered 40 shrink-wrapped pallets of pharmaceuticals, including thousands of boxes of popular medicines such as Cymbalta and Prozac were missing.
An item left behind at the crime scene—a plastic water bottle—broke the case open. DNA on the bottle was matched to a Cuban living in Florida with a history of cargo theft. Authorities raided a Florida storage facility and recovered the drugs stolen from the Enfield warehouse. Cuban Amed Villa and his co-conspirators were charged with that crime as well as other thefts, including:

$13.3m in pharmaceuticals from the GlaxoSmithKline warehouse in Virginia;
$8m in cigarettes and a cargo trailer from an Illinois warehouse in 2010;
$7.8m in cell phones and tablets from a Florida warehouse in 2011; and
More than $1.5m in cigarettes from a Kentucky warehouse in 2011.
The large pay-out offered by cargo theft is irresistible to thieves, when by comparison the average bank robbery nets only $10,000. Cargo thieves represent an active form of organized crime, with deep networks linked to stealing and selling product.

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