By JOSH POLTILOVE | The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - The mastermind behind the $7.4 million theft of military computers was nabbed thanks to some good police work – and the help of a McDonald's drive-thru, investigators said.
Rolando Coca, 55, of Miami, was arrested recently in South Florida and faces a federal indictment for theft of government property, officials announced today.
The investigation began almost a year ago after two burglars cut a hole in the roof of a military contractor's warehouse in Palm River and rappelled inside.
The warehouse is operated by iGov, a Virginia-based contractor that supplies communication and computer network equipment to U.S. Special Forces.
The alarm systems were "defeated," Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said. Over almost 10 hours, the group of 10 suspects stole about 3,000 pieces of computer equipment, loading it into tractor-trailers.
"This was very choreographed, and it was operated at a very high skill level," Gee said. "Obviously they have done these things before."
But even as the elaborate heist was being carried out March 6, investigators said, a simple burger run was helping pave the way for detectives to crack the case.
A red Lincoln Navigator captured on surveillance video at the crime scene also was spotted on camera at a McDonald's a mile away, Gee said. Coca later was identified as the man at the SUV's wheel in the drive-thru lane.
Investigators seized the Lincoln in April and found a piece of foam insulation, which analysts determined was consistent with material from iGov's roof.
Coca's DNA also was found on a door and window at the warehouse, authorities said.
Because many cargo thefts in Florida appear to have Miami ties, Gee said deputies, federal agents and an informant worked to buy 30 laptops for $15,000 in South Florida.
A second deal, 100 laptops for $50,000, also was organized. Gee said the dealers imposed a restriction: the laptops could not remain in the country.
The computer equipment had been stolen from iGov, investigators said.
Authorities discovered an abandoned warehouse in Opa-locka that housed 1,900 computers – about $4.7 million worth of the stolen equipment.
Some stolen property also was found for sale on Amazon and eBay, although about 1,000 items remain missing.
None of the top secret information at the Gov warehouse was stolen, authorities said.
Investigators said Coca heads a Miami crime family linked to several cargo thefts.
One other person has been arrested in the Gov theft: Emil Benitez, a "middle man" who has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for his involvement, Gee said.
The investigation continues.
The FBI estimates annual cargo theft losses nationwide at $30 billion. Investigators said there were 171 thefts last year in Florida, with an average loss of $471,200.
Hillsborough deputies have investigated 17 cargo thefts or "high dollar warehouse thefts" since 2008, with losses totaling about $15 million.
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