MABLETON MAN SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR CARGO THEFT CONSPIRACY
May 3, 2011
Goods Traced to More Than 20 Interstate Cargo Thefts Totaling
Nearly $2 Million Over Four-Year Period
ATLANTA, GA - JOHN RAYMOND SMITH, JR., a/k/a “Johnny Ray Smith,” 51, of Mableton, Georgia, was sentenced to prison today by United States District Judge Amy Totenberg on charges of conspiracy; buying, receiving, and possessing stolen goods; and a charge of money laundering, in connection with the purchase and distribution of goods traced to nearly two-dozen interstate tractor trailer and container thefts throughout Georgia and the southeastern United States between May 2005 and July 2009.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “A merchant who knows or deliberately ignores the criminal source of stolen goods can be a key part of a fraud ring. Some of the goods in this case were in brand new, original packaging from the manufacturers; shrink-wrapped; and sold in untraceable cash transactions at below-market prices and without official paperwork. This specific kind of fraud is hard to spot and hard to stop, but those who deal in such stolen goods still roll the dice and certainly face time in federal prison.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, said, “Large scale commercial theft such as this is directly responsible for the increased price of various consumer goods. The public is urged to report to law enforcement this type of criminal activity which not only involves the theft itself but the subsequent movement of the large amount of stolen goods to a secondary market.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent In Charge Reginael D. McDaniel said, “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to addressing corruption at every level, and are pleased to have been instrumental in dismantling this cargo theft ring by following the flow of money.”
SMITH was sentenced to 4 years, 2 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $993,903 in restitution to his victims. There is no parole in the federal justice system. SMITH was convicted of these charges on June 2, 2010 upon his plea of guilty.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Between May 2005 and July 2009, SMITH operated “Smith Sales Company”out of warehouses in Mableton and Hiram, Georgia. He conspired with ROBIN L. CHEATWOOD, who operated “A-Z Discount,” another business located in Cedartown, Georgia, and others, to buy and receive goods stolen from nearly two dozen interstate tractor trailer and container shipments valued at just under $2 million throughout the Southeast, including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The tractor trailers and containers were stolen while parked at truck stops, motels, and container storage facilities, often at night. SMITH, CHEATWOOD, and others then sold the goods at discounted prices to consumers and wholesalers.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers recovered portions of the stolen interstate shipments during searches of warehouses controlled by SMITH, CHEATWOOD, and others in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The stolen goods included a $123,000 shipment of brand name TVs and computers, a $164,000 shipment of Casio, Inc. electronics, $100,000 in GT One cigarettes, a $450,000 shipment of computerized Husqvarna and Pfaff sewing machines, an $86,000 shipment of Starkist canned tuna, $40,000 in Carter’s, Inc. baby clothes, and $64,000 in Wrigley’s chewing gum. Many of the stolen shipments were bound for major retailers such as Best Buy, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Target, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, and Office Depot.
CHEATWOOD, who cooperated in the investigation, pleaded guilty to charges related to the stolen goods recovered by law enforcement in 2005. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Rome, Georgia on September 11, 2009, and served a 10-month prison sentence. Neither SMITH nor CHEATWOOD were charged with the actual theft of the cargo containers.
The investigation is ongoing. The GBI has asked that any members of the public who may have seen semi-trailer trucks being unloaded at rest stops, truck stops, industrial areas or residential areas, particularly at night or on weekends, and believe such off-loading may be suspicious, to call the GBI’s Major Theft Unit at 404-244-2600.
This prosecution was the result of a joint investigation conducted by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, and by special agents and task force officers with the Major Theft Unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Multiple additional local law enforcement agencies and offices assisted with the investigation, including the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, and the Cedartown Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys David M. Chaiken and William L. McKinnon, Jr. prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.