An investigation into the theft of several semi-trailers and loads of frozen beef in the Lincoln and Grand Island areas of Nebraska has uncovered an alleged crime ring based in Miami that targeted packing plants in six states.
Lancaster County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Peschong said the initial investigation involved an estimated $1 million loss in Lincoln.
A semi loaded with more than $232,000 worth of beef had been stolen in Grand Island on June 26 and found empty in Emerald, a small town west of Lincoln, Nebraska, according to court records.
The next day, a semi without a trailer was stolen in Emerald and found later southeast of Lincoln, along with a trailer reported stolen from Grand Island loaded with $157,000 of beef.
Peschong said, in working with Homeland Security Investigation in Omaha, officials now believe the same people involved in the thefts were responsible for 45 others — an estimated $9 million loss — since June 2021 in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
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Peschong said the sheriff’s office, Homeland Security in Omaha and the Florida Highway Patrol, with help from a Homeland Security task force in Miami, identified and arrested three people and recovered three semis with stolen merchandise valued at $550,000.
The three — Yoslany Leyva Del Sol, 38; Ledier Machin Andino, 37; and Delvis L. Fuentes, 39 — were arrested for transportation of stolen goods and money laundering.
They face charges in federal court in Florida.
In the criminal complaint, Robert Palombo Jr., a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, said a search of records of devices connected to specific cellular communication towers conducted by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office on June 30 for the location and time of the thefts led them to Fuentes, who has a commercial driver’s license and lives in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Fuentes’ cellphone records led them to Del Sol and Andino, who had been in Nebraska at the time of the thefts, Palombo said.
“On or about Sept. 16, 2022, law enforcement observed, through real-time GPS tracking, a semi-tractor registered to Del Sol traveling on Interstate 80 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Within a few seconds, law enforcement observed two other semi-tractors with trailers following the semi-tractor registered to Del Sol,” the agent said.
One of the semi-trailers was registered to a friend of Fuentes.
Palombo said officials obtained warrants for the three men’s phones, which included real-time data, and learned they had left Miami on Oct. 10. They were tracked to Columbia, Tennessee, then Oct. 13 in Des Moines, Iowa, where officials put GPS trackers on the semis driven by Fuentes and Andino.
The Homeland Security agent said the three were seen casing semi-tractor yards there and in Sioux City, Iowa, looking for products to steal.
By Oct. 14, they were tracked to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where investigators suspect them in the theft of a trailer with 19 pallets of ham, and to the theft of two semis and three pallet jacks stolen the next day in Worthington, Minnesota.
Palombo said two semis and two trailers were stolen from JBS, each with 22 pallets of pork, estimated to be worth $150,000.
On Oct. 20, Florida Highway Patrol troopers saw all three tractor-trailers on I-75 East in the Weston area. They stopped Fuentes’ semi, then detained Del Sol and Andino in a parking lot nearby.
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