The trucks were about 90% full, with contents ranging from toys and refrigerators to washing machines and furniture
BREAKING NEWS OUT OF MEXICO: "60 stolen trucks, tonnes of cargo recovered in Puebla"
Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and Detective Thomas “T.J.” Hargrove discuss the solving of a major theft case that has led to three arrests and may lead to additional ones before the case is actually closed. Thus far, the investigation spearheaded by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, has led to the solving of several major theft cases in Milledgeville and Baldwin County, as well as six other counties across the state.
Billy Hobbs Sep 13, 2017
An investigation into a major theft ring involving big trucks, trailers and assorted construction equipment valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars has been solved with the recovery of items and the arrests of three men.
The case, spearheaded by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, is likely to lead to additional arrests, according to Sheriff Bill Massee.
The case has been linked to nine other counties across Georgia where similar items have been stolen in recent weeks from construction sites, said Baldwin County Sheriff’s Detective Thomas “T.J.” Hargrove.
The theft ring, which is believed to have been led by a man now jailed in Baldwin County, could lead to racketeering charges being filed against the suspects already in custody and those yet to be arrested, Massee said.
Regardless of jurisdiction, if and when federal RICO charges are actually filed against the suspects and others expected to be arrested in the case, the entire case would then be prosecuted in Baldwin County.
Already Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley is looking at the possibility of filing such charges against the trio of suspects now jailed in the Baldwin County Law Enforcement Center. Assistant District Attorneys Leonard D. Myers and Dawn Baskin also are involved in reviewing the case to determine if the suspects will be charged under the RICO Act.
“We’ve already discussed the idea of seeking RICO charges against the men we have in custody and others that will likely be arrested in this case,” said Hargrove, who is the lead detective in the case. “In a RICO case, you have to prove two elements. You have to prove conspiracy and you have to prove (criminal) enterprise.”
Several law enforcement agencies are involved in the case after Hargrove informed them of the magnitude and scope of the theft and that it involved numerous suspects.
One such agency is the Byron Police Department in Houston County.
“A cargo load of Kubota tractors, known as UTVs, were stolen to the tune of about $50,000,” Hargrove said. “They were brought to Baldwin County where they stayed for about 15 minutes. They stayed at 359 Allen Memorial Drive before the load was taken to Hancock County and unloaded and the truck and trailer discarded there.”
Authorities still have not determined where the stolen tractors ended up.
None of them have been recovered, Massee said.
“What we’re doing in the interim of waiting on the RICO idea to play out is we are having these various jurisdictions who will do it to go ahead and take charges in their jurisdictions,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove identified the three suspects as: Jamaul Kenneth Evans, of Harrisburg Road, Lot 4-A, Milledgeville; Marcus Curtis, 29, of Huff Road, Apt. 2421, Atlanta; and Garrick Lashawn Dixon, of Brisco Road, Gordon.
Massee said Dixon lives in Baldwin County but has a Gordon mailing address.
Evans, whom authorities believe was one of the masterminds of the major theft ring, was taken into custody for felony probation violation, two counts of felony cargo theft, and one count of felony theft by receiving stolen property.
Dixon was charged with two counts of felony cargo theft, and one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property.
Curtis, who formerly lived in Milledgeville before moving to Atlanta, was charged with one felony count of theft by receiving stolen property.
Additional criminal charges are expected to be filed against all three of those men, Hargrove said, noting Curtis was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant at his Atlanta residence last Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
Hargrove said he was in process of obtaining additional warrants against the three suspects.
“What we’ve done currently is arrest them on what we can prove happened in Baldwin County,” Hargrove said.
The detective explained that those involved in the theft ring are not interested in actually keeping the semi-trucks or trailers they steal.
“They don’t have any interest in those items,” Hargrove said. “That is merely to transport the property. They want the merchandise. They are after the load. They like construction-type of equipment.”
Authorities said they have learned the individual roles played by those they believe responsible for the crimes.
Aside from the case in Byron, another theft case happened Aug. 30 in Macon-Bibb County.
“This is the most recent theft of a truck,” Hargrove said. “This is the one that was encountered on Harrisburg Road in Baldwin County.”
Local deputies already had been made aware of the thefts and were on the lookout for the possibility of stolen tractor-trailers with cargo.
Deputy Joshua Holcomb spotted what he believed to be a suspicious semi-tractor truck recently traveling along Harrisburg Road. The deputy turned around on the truck, but by the time he found the truck behind Martin’s IGA, the driver had managed to escape. A search for the suspect was conducted by deputies, a K-9 officer and tracking dog, but authorities didn’t catch the man driving the truck, which turned out to have been stolen.
The Sterling Industrial truck was stolen Aug. 28 on Baxter Avenue in Macon and recovered in Baldwin County.
The truck was valued at $50,000.
Another semi-tractor truck, a Freightliner, which had been stolen from Lamar County, was recovered in Baldwin County Aug. 16.
The truck was discovered behind the Collins P. Lee Community Center in the Harrisburg neighborhood.
“I knew that they liked two places here in the county, Martin’s IGA and the Harrisburg area,” Hargrove said. “I asked deputies when they had time to please check those two places.”
Deputy Benjamin Forbus recovered the stolen truck after its owner called the sheriff’s office to inform them that the truck’s GPS tracking system was showing that it was parked at the community center in Baldwin County.
“That truck was actually found on the same night it was stolen,” Hargrove said.
Deputy Lt. Lee Williamson recovered a stolen semi-tractor truck behind Martin’s IGA July 25, which is what led to the unfolding of the major theft investigation.
It began with the theft of two Bobcats within the city limits of Milledgeville.
“They thought kids were doing it, because they found one in a wooded area right behind from where it was taken,” Hargrove said. “What they (police officers) didn’t realize and what I didn’t realize is that these guys would take this stuff and dump it off in the woods in a desolate area and then come back later and pick it up. They wanted to make sure the GPS wasn’t enabled on it and they wanted to make sure nobody was looking for it.”
Once they discovered no one was coming for the stolen items, those believed involved in the crime spree went back and retrieved the items and then took them to Atlanta where they were sold to a person described as a “fence.”
Hargrove said when it got deeper into the case, he was advised to call for assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Major Theft Unit. GBI Special Agent Cecil Hutchins from the Conyers office rendered his assistance in the case.
The detective said he has also been assisted in the case by detectives Greg See, Chris Youngblood and Chris Burrell.
“We’re still trying to figure out what these three suspects are actually responsible for as far as thefts are concerned, as well as other people that are involved, but who have not yet been arrested,” Hargrove said.
Massee said what is unknown to authorities at this time is how many thefts happened that they haven’t or can’t document.
“We don’t know what the true volume is as far as number of theft cases is concerned,” Massee said. “The volume of stolen equipment and the dollar value that T.J. [Hargrove] has proven is a tremendous cost to property owners — these people who own these pieces of heavy equipment. What we don’t know is how many more pieces of equipment they stole that we haven’t documented yet.”
That’s why the case remains an active investigation, the sheriff pointed out.
“At this point in time, it literally covers from Milledgeville to Atlanta and to Crawford County,” Massee said.
Anyone with information about such thefts is asked to call the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 478-445-5102.
By WMCActionNews5.com Staff
By Jerry Askin
OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) -Sixty-seven guns were stolen outside a sporting goods store in Olive Branch.
The guns were in a trailer parked at Academy Sports on Goodman Road. The trailer's driver arrived at around 10 p.m. He was set to deliver the contents of the trailer to the store at 6 a.m. the next day.
Police said the truck driver went to sleep behind the store Sunday night; when he woke up, the guns and ammo were gone.
"We don't want to see these guns in the hands of young people or criminals at all," Olive Branch Police Chief Don Gammage said. "I'm so afraid they're going to make it out to the black market."
The guns taken were a mixture of handguns and long guns. Olive Branch Police Department said 61 of the 67 guns were handguns. Two of the guns are AR 15s. Two other guns were shotguns. Investigators did not release the type of guns for the final two.
"It is very scary thing to think about," Olive Branch resident Laura Molner said. "For people who live here, who live in Memphis, it's terrifying."
Olive Branch residents said it is not something they are used to hearing about in their city.
"You're safe where you're at," Molner said. "You don't hear things here. It's more like cities around us. Then, all of a sudden, it's been brought into our city."
But others said crime is everywhere, including Olive Branch.
One business owner said he has experienced thieves trying to break into his store more than once.
"It's unusual to hear something like that in Olive Branch," Terry McMullin, jewelry store owner, said.
McMullin owns Master Jewelers, located across the street from Academy Sports.
"We've had our problems in Olive Branch as well," McMullin said. "So crime is everywhere."
Molner and McMullin both are concerned their city is now more dangerous, because those guns could be in the hands of criminals.
"It's something that's concerning to me," McMullin said. "It's something that leads to increased crime. Not feeling safe in the community."
"It's scary. As someone who lives in Olive Branch, it's really scary to think that it could get into the wrong hands," Molner said.
Gammage said the driver of the Knoxville-based trucking company has been questioned and is cooperating. As for the possibility of it being an inside job?
"We do not feel like this was random, I will say that," Gammage said.
Gammage said investigators have all the serial numbers and model numbers to the missing weapons. He's asking for the public's help in obtaining as much information as possible in order to find the stolen guns and the person(s) responsible.
"Firearms have always been liquid in the criminal world because they're easy to get rid of and they're not disposing of them through legal channels," Jeff Duncan, Gun Exchange of Olive Branch, said.
"If you think you saw something, please call us," Gammage said.
Academy Sports and Outdoors opened approximately two years ago in Olive Branch. A spokesperson for the company said the company is working with police.
The Knoxville-based trucking company that owned the trailer declined to comment on the situation.
Investigators are currently going through video surveillance hoping to track down the person(s) responsible. They're also working alongside the ATF and nearby law enforcement agencies.
Gammage said in March another trailer was broken into and, according to the crime tracker, that burglary happened at Academy Sports near Wolfchase.
"We don't know if they are connected at this point," Gammage said. "We are definitely working to see if they are connected."
By Andrea Alvarez
“To my knowledge, in our 20 year history of being in this location, we have not had this kind of a theft,” said Donovan Mowery, the Warehouse Manager at LaSalle Bristol.
Several companies in Elkhart were targeted in the last 45 days. Their semi trailers were stolen right off their lots. There were also some thefts in South Bend. Now, police are now working with each other to investigate.
“Networking with other agencies so there's the sheriff’s department or South Bend or Saint Joe County. As they get information, you know, we can share that and hopefully be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” said Chris Snyder with Elkhart Police Department.
Eight of those trailers originally came from Kingman Mobile Storage in Elkhart. They’re leased to businesses in the county like LaSalle Bristol.
“We’ve had three trailers stolen from the lot during the evening hours when the facility is closed,” said Mowery.
Mowery says nothing was in those trailers, but nonetheless, the theft is costing them big bucks.
“You’re talking about a value of approximately 20,000 dollars for all three trailers,” said Mowery.
So how do police go about catching these thieves?
“We get the serial or Vin number for the trailer, were able to enter that into a state and national computer so that if anybody runs that the number, if they were to get pulled over for some reason, it would come back as being stolen,” said Snyder.
However, Mowery says that will be difficult since all the trailers stolen from them were intended for storage only so they weren’t plated for road use. Now, he says the company has taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“We have put glad hands locks on all the trailers which disable the e-brake line so the trailer cannot be moved off the lot,” said Mowery.
Police suggest other businesses follow suit.
“Whether its locks on the trailer, making sure you’re buildings are secure, different things like that. We certainly encourage all the businesses to come up with some type of system to be able to secure your property,” said Snyder.
Elkhart police say they have received surveillance video from LaSalle Bristol of that theft happening. There are no suspects at this time, however they are working with those other agencies to collect all of the details for leads on the investigation.
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 17, 2017
Efforts in Mississippi and New Mexico, which are intended to deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment, have cleared hurdles.
According to FreightWatch International, Mississippi and New Mexico rank in the top half of states in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia are in the top five.
Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Texas are among the states with rules in place that make cargo theft a specific crime with stiff punishment for offenders.
Advocates say that cargo theft by organized crime rings has become a very serious problem across the nation. The FBI says cargo theft causes $15 billion to $30 billion in losses each year.
The Mississippi House voted 109-9 to advance a bill to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has about 2,130 members residing in Mississippi, says the legislative effort to deter cargo theft is a reasonable and overdue deterrent intended to better protect the livelihood of the men and women that help drive the economy.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said cargo theft is bad for everyone involved in the supply chain, especially truck drivers.
“When a trucker becomes the victim of theft, it can be financially devastating,” Matousek said. “Such an occurrence could effectively put our members, the majority of whom are single truck owner-operators, out of business.
“The same goes for those involved in seasonal operations as they miss out on a year’s income in a short period of time.”
In an effort to discourage thefts in Mississippi, HB722 calls for offenders to face prison in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.
Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.
Violators of other property heists valued as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.
Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels, and any antitheft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.
The bill awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.
In New Mexico, the Senate Public Affairs Committee has forwarded a bill to establish the theft of trailer or container cargo as a specific offense and impose significant punishment.
The bill, SB74, would authorize second-degree felony charges. Offenders would face up to nine years in prison and fines up to the fair market value of the property stolen and the cost of recovering the property.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here. For more information on New Mexico legislation click here.
Violent take-over robberies are on the rise in Southern California: An investigation into the organized world of “cargo pirates.” By Mary Harris and Hetty Chang
Truckers are being warned about the risk of cargo theft during the holiday weekend, especially in Southern California.
Since the beginning of the year, nearly $30 million in cargo has been stolen off of highways and from distribution centers throughout California. That is a 40% increase over last year, according to CargoNet, a cargo theft prevention and recovery network.
Detective Gerardo Pachuca has spent 14 years working for Cargo CATS, a specialized unit within the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. He says cargo theft is a "low risk, high reward" crime.
"The bad guys laugh at the system because they don't get punished severely enough," he said. Pachuca said he arrests the same suspects "over and over again."
Southern California Images in the NewsPachuca said there has been a recent surge of "takeover robberies" where suspects tie up guards at distribution centers and then go "shopping" to find the cargo they want to steal.
Surveillance video shows two men jump a fence at the far end of the lot. They get in position outside the guard shack. Then a truck comes to the gate. The 60-year-old guard exits the shack to engage the trucker, at which point he is tackled by the suspects inside the gate. The guards body is limp as the two suspects drag him to the guard shack. Pachuca said they proceeded to duct tape his hands and feet, tie him up with an extension cord, and put a trash can over his head.
"Within a couple of minutes they're in the wind, with two containers. $600,000," he said.
Another takeover robbery incident caught on camera demonstrated how quickly this kind of high-dollar heist can happen. The security guard narrates the activity to a 911 operator.
Southern California Crimes Caught on Camera"There are 2 males with guns," the operator said. Video shows multiple trucks rolling into the gate. The guard said the suspects have come to steal electronics. Surveillance video catches them hitching up to trailers. Less than ten minutes later, five trucks leave with cargo valued at $3 million. Sheriff's deputies respond immediately to the call, guided by the security guard's information. Deputies are able to recover all five loads.
In both cases, the suspects are not deterred by the presence of a security and multiple surveillance cameras. "It does not stop them. There's no fear," Pachuca said.Pachuca stressed that these are skilled and organized thieves. They work in crews, he said. These heists begin with a buyer who is looking for specific merchandise. Then locations scouts scope out distribution centers, truck stops and trucks to find that specific item. Driving a big rig takes skill, and this is often done by a former trucker. Finally, there are sellers that quickly unload the stolen goods.
The most common type of commodity targeted by cargo thieves is food and beverages. Items like energy drinks, meats, alcohol and nuts can be dispensed quickly. "Once it's consumed, it's gone," Pachuca said. "The evidence is gone. And there's no one you can prosecute for that crime."
Given the scope and price tag associated with cargo crime, Scott Cornell, Crime and Theft Specialist for Travelers Insurance, calls it "America's invisible crime." While cargo theft does not get the publicity that other crimes receive, it does impact shoppers across the country."The cost of these thefts is baked into the cost of things that we purchase, so ultimately the consumer pays for cargo theft," Cornell said.
Travelers Insurance provides insurance for trucking fleets. They have an Investigations Group that looks into cargo theft. One of the tools at their disposal is a "stinger trailer" that they lend out to law enforcement, including agencies in Southern California.
"It has covert tracking capabilities, hidden cameras, all the things that law enforcement needs," Cornell said.
James Lin is the CEO of Unis Company, a logistics business that coordinates and transports high-end goods, with an emphasis on electronics. Even though his business is transporations, Lin says he spends half his time on theft prevention.
"We don't want to be in the security business, but as a logistics provider. It's just part of the job," Lin said.
In the past, he has had drivers robbed at gunpoint. Drivers' trucks disappeared after they have gone to the restroom. He said there are also instances where drivers have been offered money "to just park and turn their heads."
With that in mind, he now loads his vehicles with three to five tracking devices. This aggressive approach has helped him reduce theft by 500 percent. Lin said of the more than 100,000 containers he shipped last year, only six were stolen.
Despite his success, Lin knows he cannot rest when it comes to theft.
"Thieves are always finding new ways to rip you off, and we will find new methodologies to prevent it," Lin said.
Click here to learn more about the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department efforts on Cargo Theft.
FreightWatch International recorded a total of 193 cargo thefts in 2016’s third quarter, according to its quarterly theft report issued last week. The cargo theft monitoring firm pegged the average loss value of cargo theft instances in the quarter at $120,536 each in the third quarter of the year.
Compared to the 2016’s second quarter, theft occurrences rose 14 percent, but average loss value fell 26 percent. Compared to 2015’s third quarter, cargo theft incidents were up 7 percent, while values rose 38 percent.
During the third quarter, FreightWatch recorded 77 cargo thefts in July, 66 in August and 50 in September.
Electronics and home and garden were the most-stolen items in the quarter, each accounting for 18 percent of cargo thefts during the period, according to FWI. Food and drinks accounted for 17 percent of stolen items. In electronics, televisions and displays accounted for 31 percent of the thefts. In home and garden loads, appliances were most stolen. Meats and produce each accounted for 18 percent on the food and drinks items stolen.
Home and garden items saw the most dramatic increase in thefts when compared year-over-year with a 94 percent increase from 2015’s third quarter. Electronics thefts rose by 46 percent year-over-year.
California ranked as the top state in FWI’s numbers with 38 percent of total thefts in the quarter, followed by Texas with 16 percent of the total. Of the 193 thefts in the quarter, 75 percent of them occurred in unsecured parking locations, FreightWatch says. Secured parking locations accounted for 13 percent of thefts, and warehouse and distribution centers represented 11 percent of the thefts.
Additionally, FWI says theft of full truckload was most prevalent with 78 percent of third quarter thefts.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In 2015, the CargoNet® Command Center received and logged more than 1,500 incidents of cargo theft, heavy commercial vehicle theft, and identity theft of trucking companies in the United States and Canada. 881 incidents involved theft of cargo. CargoNet received a loss value on 53% of reported cargo thefts. $98 million in cargo was stolen in those 470 thefts. The average cargo theft loss value per incident was $187,490. If combined with the known loss value, we can estimate the value of stolen cargo in all 881 incidents to be $175,303,399. CargoNet recorded 10 cargo thefts worth more than $1 million this year.
California reported the most cargo thefts of any state or province. CargoNet recorded 158 theft incidents with a total loss value of $18.7 million. Texas was close behind with 130 recorded theft incidents and $12.2 million in cargo stolen. Texas was followed by Florida (98 thefts), Georgia (97 thefts), and New Jersey (80 thefts).
It’s important to note that some states had noticeable increases or decreases in cargo theft from quarter to quarter. New Jersey is a good example of this. CargoNet had recorded 34 thefts in first-quarter 2015 for New Jersey, but by fourth-quarter 2015 the number had dropped to just 12 thefts. In contrast, thefts have increased in Tennessee each quarter.
In 2015 49% of reported cargo theft incidents occurred between Friday and Sunday. Friday was the most common day for cargo theft: 21% of all cargo theft occured on Friday. Cargo theft also spiked briefly on Monday (16% of all cargo theft incidents). We took a closer look at our data, and it seems cargo theft groups prefer to steal Monday evening into Tuesday morning more than Sunday night into Monday morning. Wednesday was the least common day. Only 9% of cargo thefts occurred on a Wednesday.
Food and beverage items were again the most stolen commodity. Of the cargo theft incidents that CargoNet received, 28% involved theft of food and beverage cargo. This was significantly more than the next highest categories, electronics and household, each of which accounted for 13% of stolen items.
CargoNet is a division of Verisk Crime Analytics, a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business.