Ringleaders sentenced in interstate cargo theft

FCSO participated in collaborative, lengthy investigation

Staff report

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office participated in a collaborative, years-long investigation that recently resulted in the federal court sentencing of four individuals convicted of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal truckloads of high-value merchandise traveling in interstate commerce.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, among those sentenced in New Albany were the ringleaders of the theft organization: Roberto Santos-Gonzalez, 37; Carlos Enrique Freire-Pifferrer, 39; Juan Perez-Gonzalez, 44; and Eduardo Hernandez, 55.

Santos, Freire, Perez and Hernandez were named, along with nine others, in a 23-count indictment alleging that between August 2012 and May 2015, the members of the conspiracy traveled from various locations throughout the United States, to Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and other states, in order to steal property being transported in interstate commerce by semi-tractor trailers. Members of the group would then transport the stolen trailers full of merchandise to locations in Kentucky, New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere, and sell the stolen merchandise for financial gain, according to the press release.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office previously investigated cargo thefts at the truck stop areas of State Route 41/Interstate 71 and State Route 35/Interstate 71 in Fayette County, according to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth. Some of these cargo thefts were linked to these suspects.

At the sentencing hearings, the court talked about the sophistication of this theft ring. Specifically, the court heard that the co-conspirators would travel long distances to reconnoiter distribution facilities used by various national companies to distributed high-end electronics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and cigarettes, among other products.

According to the press release, the group would conduct surveillance of the facility, locate and follow semi-tractor trailers leaving the distribution facilities, and then steal the entire semi-tractor and trailer when the driver of the cargo load would stop at a truck stop to rest or refuel. Typically the group would abandon the tractor portion of the stolen vehicle within 20 miles of the truck stop, but would hook the stolen trailer up to a tractor operated by another member of the conspiracy and haul the load to Louisville, Ky., where arrangements would be made to sell the stolen merchandise. In four instances, the cargo loads targeted by these defendants either originated at a distribution center or were stolen from a truck stop in central Indiana.

Additionally, in many instances, the defendants transported the stolen cargo through the Southern District of Indiana to Louisville using Interstate Highways 64, 65 and 69.

The loads targeted by the crime syndicate included truckloads of T-Mobile cellular phones, Samsung appliances, Ralph Lauren clothing, Dell computers, HP computers, Pfizer pharmaceuticals, Mead Johnson baby formula, Lorillard cigarettes, and one truckload of LG cellular phones valued at $11.9 million.

Due to their prior criminal history and extensive involvement in the new criminal conspiracy, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt sentenced Santos to 150 months imprisonment, Perez to 108 months imprisonment, and Freire and Hernandez were sentenced to 87 months and 12 months.

According to Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew J. Rinka and James M. Warden, all defendants will be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for a period of three years following their release from custody.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police Vehicle Investigations Branch, with assistance from the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, Wythe County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

FCSO participated in collaborative, lengthy investigation

Staff report