Florida remains a hotspot for cargo and tractor-trailer thefts
'It is a huge problem,' said Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes.
Iandy Jimenez (Polk County Sheriff's Office,…)
December 13, 2013|By Amy Pavuk, Orlando Sentinel
Florida is a hotbed for cargo thefts.
From baby formula to prescription drugs, meat to chocolate, electronics to washing machines, no product is off limits for cargo thieves.
Tractor-trailers filled with merchandise vanish from parking lots and other spots, and are often found abandoned in South Florida.
By the time law-enforcement catches up with the vehicles and containers, the cargo is long gone.
"It is a huge problem," said Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes.
More than 130 cargo thefts were reported in Florida last year by FreightWatch International, making the Sunshine State the second-highest ranking for such heists.
Interstate 4, Interstate 95 and Interstate 75 are hotspots for cargo thefts in Florida, Montes said.
Thieves sell the goods on the black market in the United States, and also send the items overseas for sales.
"It's a low-risk, high-reward type of crime," said Tom Foy, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Fort Myers division.
Earlier this year, agents from Foy's office and members of a statewide cargo-theft task force dismantled a cargo theft ring responsible for stealing millions of dollars in products.
Two Polk County men, Iandy Jimenez and Enrique Bernardez, are among those accused of stealing tractor-trailers filled with tires, clothes, food and pharmaceuticals.
The ring had stash houses in Highlands and Hillsborough counties, where the stolen cargo was stored before being sent to Miami for distribution, agents said.
Richard Mellor, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation, said cargo thefts have a serious impact on retailers and consumers.
"When a truck is stolen it can completely disrupt a product line being available to consumers," Mellor said. "Although some products are more readily available to get a replacement shipment on the road to the retailers, in some cases it needs to be shipped from other countries and can take weeks to obtain."
FreightWatch reports that food and drinks were the most frequently stolen merchandise in 2012, accounting for 19 percent of all cargo theft nationwide.
Metals were the second-most frequently stolen cargo item last year. Electronics were in third, accounting for 13 percent of all thefts.
Investigators say food is an easy item to steal and sell because it is difficult for law-enforcement to track, unlike electronic devices marked with serial numbers.
During a recent weekend, a tractor-trailer filled with $120,000 worth of Hershey's chocolate was stolen from a DeLand truck center.
The truck, a 2012 Freightliner Cascadia with red and orange stripes, has not been recovered. Neither has the candy.
Montes said thieves often gather their own intelligence so they know what is inside the trailers they steal.
"They're looking for what they can transport and sell quickly overseas," she said.
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Original News Article
Man accused in theft of $34k worth of products
By César G. Rodriguez
Laredo Morning Times
A man accused of stashing $34,000 worth of stolen Don Julio tequila bottles and other products and appliances has been arrested.
Jose Baldemar Hernandez, 47, was charged with third-degree felony theft at police headquarters Wednesday morning. Hernandez was booked at the Webb County Jail and held on a $100,000 bond, according to court records.
Investigator Joe E. Baeza, Laredo Police Department spokesman, said the case remains open, as several others are suspected in the theft of cargo.
A representative of Werner Enterprises, 11113 Carrizo Drive, reported to police Nov. 11 he needed assistance finding some stolen Don Julio bottles. The criminal complaint against Hernandez alleges that pallets had been coming in short from Mexico to the United States since July
By Amy Pavuk, Orlando Sentinel
Missing: a white tractor-trailer filled with $120,000 worth of Hershey's chocolate.
Volusia deputies say the 2012 Freightliner Cascadia with red and orange stripes, and its cargo, were stolen from a DeLand truck center during the weekend.
It's unclear whether the thief or thieves just wanted the vehicle — or had a mighty sweet tooth.
"We believe the thief likely wanted the truck and had no idea what the cargo was," said Volusia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Brandon Haught.
Though tractor-trailer thefts aren't common in Volusia, authorities say such heists are routine in Florida. Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Frost said thieves usually want the cargo and not the vehicle.
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Cargo that doesn't contain serial numbers — such as food and baby formula — is a popular target because the items are easy to sell without being tracked, Frost said.
That mirrors cargo-theft trends across the country.
Nationwide, 946 cargo-theft incidents were recorded last year by FreightWatch International. About 130 of those were in Florida, making the Sunshine State the second-highest in the country for thefts behind California.
The Volusia heist during the weekend fits right in with the most popular type of cargo theft: food and drink, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all cargo theft in 2012, FreightWatch reports.
Frost said authorities frequently recover stolen tractor-trailers, but by the time the abandoned vehicle is found, the loot is gone.
Haught said deputies have no suspects and no sign of the truck, which is valued at $90,000.
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