Florida Man Charged with Stealing Ventilators Intended for Critically Ill Covid-19 Patients in El Salvador Arrested in Texas
Miami, Fl. -- Yoelvis Denis Hernandez, a/k/a “Guajiro,” 42, was arrested yesterday in Del Rio, Texas, on a South Florida indictment charging him with stealing 192 U.S. government-owned medical ventilators worth about three million dollars. According to court documents, the ventilators were heading to a COVID-19 intensive care facility in El Salvador as part of a United States Government COVID-19 aid program when they were stolen in South Florida, while in transit.
The indictment charges Hernandez and Luis Urra Montero, a/k/a “Flaco,” 24, with federal conspiracy, possession of stolen goods being shipped interstate, and theft of government property. According to the indictment and other court documents, on August 9, 2020, Hernandez and Montero stole a tractor trailer loaded with 192 medical ventilators, during its transport by truck to Miami International Airport. USAID had acquired the ventilators and was sending them to the Government of El Salvador as part of an aid program to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients there. According to court documents, Hernandez and Montero stole the trailer from a lot where the driver had left it overnight. Following an investigation, law enforcement recovered most of the stolen ventilators.
Hernandez made his initial federal court appearance today in the Western District of Texas. Future proceeding will occur in the Southern District of Florida, where the case is pending. Co-defendant Montero was arrested on September 15, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida. He is being detained without bond pending trial.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, and Tom Ullom, Acting Inspector General, United States Agency for International Development, Office of Inspector General (“USAID-OIG”), made the announcement.
FBI, FBI Miami’s Major Theft Task Force, and USAID-OIG investigated this case, with assistance from Boynton Beach Police Department, Miami Dade Police Department, Medley Police Department, City of Miami Gardens Police Department, and Broward Sheriff’s Office. Customs and Border Protection Del Rio and FBI San Antonio also assisted. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Lazopoulos Friedman is prosecuting it.
An indictment is merely a charging document and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 20-cr-20252.