Pepper-spray trap used in $4.8M gold truck heist: FBI

MIAMI -- The FBI has revealed how thieves made off with gold bars worth $4.8 million in a truck robbery on Interstate 95 last year, and it reads like a heist fit for Hollywood.

See Full Article

Agents say the armed robbers painstakingly prepared for the job, using high-tech gizmos including a GPS tracker and a remote-controlled pepper-spray launcher to subdue the drivers.

Agents identified the alleged ringleader as Adalberto Perez, 46. He was arrested this week at his home in the Miami suburb of Opa-Locka, Florida, almost exactly a year after the March 2015 robbery in Wilson County, North Carolina. Two accomplices remain at large.

It appears the case was cracked when a friend of Perez came forward just a few months ago. According to an FBI affidavit unsealed in federal court this week, the friend said Perez spent about a year preparing for the heist.

The target: a routine shipment of gold bars aboard a tractor-trailer sent by Miami-based Republic Metals to a processing plant in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, that serves jewelry makers in the Boston area.

The FBI says that friend -- now a confidential informant -- said Perez bought a GPS tracking device online and had it mailed to the friend's address, without telling him what was in the package.

The affidavit doesn't say how Perez was able to gain access to the truck, if he had any relationship with the TransValue shipping company, or if the plot involved still more accomplices.

But the friend said "Perez said he placed this technology under the TransValue trailer in order to track its location," and that Perez also rigged a pepper-spray device inside the cab, the affidavit says.

TransValue chief executive officer Jay Rodriguez has said the truck left Miami about 4 a.m. that Sunday. The tractor-trailer appeared much like any other travelling up the East Coast. The drivers apparently had no idea they were being tracked by three armed robbers following them in a white van.

Shortly after dusk along a lonely stretch of I-95 in North Carolina, the truck's cab suddenly filled with pepper spray, launched by remote control, forcing its sickened drivers to pull over. The white van stopped on the highway shoulder as well.

At first claiming in Spanish that they were police officers, the men bound their hands with plastic ties and marched them into the woods. Then they put out orange traffic cones to make the stopped truck appear innocuous, and wore reflective clothing to appear as though they belonged on the roadside, too, according to the affidavit.

The thieves then cut off trailer's locks, quickly unloaded 275 pounds of gold and about 40 silver coins into the van, and sped off, leaving numerous drums of silver behind.

By the time the two drivers came out of the woods and flagged down passing motorists, the thieves were long gone.

After the robbery, the FBI informant said, Perez showed him one of the 26-pound gold bars at his home. He said he watched as Perez chipped away pieces to sell bit by bit, and used his cellphone to take photos of this gold and the tools Perez used.

The informant, identified as "CS" for confidential source, gave the images to the FBI; in one, the gold bar shows a distinctive Republic Metals stamp.

"Perez told CS he sold all of the gold he kept from the robbery," and used the money to buy three homes, three Nissan vehicles and a boat. He also had some gold fashioned into jewelry, some of it featuring religious icons, according to the FBI.

The informant said Perez gave him a gold bracelet, the FBI said.

After the friend came forward, investigators were able to use cellphone tower records to show that a phone linked to Perez travelled north through Florida along the same I-95 route as the truck that day. The FBI affidavit says the phone's last known location was in Dillon, South Carolina, where the truck refuelled . The robbery took place an hour or so later.

Perez remained in jail without bail Friday on federal robbery and firearms charges, pending a Tuesday hearing.

"The complaint was quite an interesting read, but they are merely allegations," said his attorney, Frank Graviria, in an email. "We intend to fully investigate these serious allegations."

FBI spokesman Mike Leverock said additional suspects are being sought, and a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction still stands. The FBI distributed sketches of two other robbers based on information from witnesses.

Perez isn't the first man arrested in the case. Last year, Miguel Bover was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to an extortion charge, stemming from an attempt to sell one of the stolen bars. Bover, however, was not directly involved in the robbery itself, nor was the informant.

That bar is still the only one that has been recovered, but typically prosecutors will seek to seize property and assets of those involved to later sell and pay restitution to any victims.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Five years after Superstorm Sandy flooding, NYC subway station reopens

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A New York City subway station has reopened nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy flooded it with 15 million gallons of water. The South Ferry station on the No. 1 line reopened Tuesday after more than $340 million worth of repairs. Source
  • 80-year-old woman attacked by rabid bobcat in garden

    World News Toronto Sun
    SUNAPEE, N.H. — An 80-year-old New Hampshire woman fought off a rabid bobcat with the help of her two dogs and her gardening sickle. Elsie Dabrowski says she was gardening Sunday at her Sunapee home when the animal attacked , biting her face, arm and back. Source
  • Famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey files for bankruptcy once again

    World News Toronto Sun
    PORTLAND, Maine — Famed defence attorney F. Lee Bailey has filed for bankruptcy again to tie up loose ends following his bankruptcy filing last year. The attorney, whose high-profile clients have included O.J. Simpson, discharged more than $4 million in debt to the Internal Revenue Service in the previous case. Source
  • New York City subway train derails, dozens injured

    World News CBC News
    A subway train derailed near a station in Harlem on Tuesday, frightening passengers and resulting in minor injuries as hundreds of people were evacuated from trains along the subway line. "We started seeing sparks through the windows. Source
  • Royal Bank to reimburse $22M in investment fees it shouldn't have charged some clients

    Canada News CBC News
    The Ontario Securities Commission says the settlement comes after a compliance review in 2015 found the bank had overcharged some of its customers 'excess fees,' for their investments. (Mark Blinch/Reuters) The Royal Bank of Canada will pay almost $22 million in compensation to clients who were charged excess fees on some mutual funds and investments products. Source
  • Lockdown lifted at Alabama military post

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Authorities locked down an Alabama military post on Tuesday amid reports of possible active shooter, and workers were advised to “run hide fight.” About two hours later, the all-clear was given and officials said there were no confirmed injuries or arrests. Source
  • 'I said I had some cookies for him': Death row inmates detail how they killed other prisoners to get there [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    COLUMBIA, S.C. — One by one, Denver Simmons recalled, he and his partner lured inmates into his cell. William Scruggs was promised cookies in exchange for doing some laundry; Jimmy Ham thought he was coming to snort some crushed pills. Source
  • Fla. man, accused of threatening to kill politician because he was 'fed up with the Republican Party,' says he was off his meds: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS First posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 01:23 PM EDT | Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 01:52 PM EDT Source
  • Shots fired at home linked to murdered mobster, police say

    Canada News CTV News
    HAMILTON -- Police say they believe a Hamilton home associated with an Ontario mobster family was "specifically targeted" in a shooting incident early Tuesday. Hamilton police Const. Steve Welton says numerous gunshots were reported in a residential neighbourhood around 2:30 a.m. Source
  • Weedon, tiny Quebec town with apropos name, hopes to become cannabis capital

    Canada News CBC News
    It's not all in a name for Weedon, a small Quebec town planning to welcome a 1.5 million-square-foot cannabis production facility. Mayor Richard Tanguay said "it's no secret" that the town's moniker had a lot to do with how two Canadian companies found the municipality in Quebec's Eastern Townships, adding that "it all worked out because we had the other elements, too. Source