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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ringleaders sentenced in massive Interstate cargo theft case

Twelve defendants convicted of stealing more than $30 million in cargo

for Louisville-based crime syndicate between 2012 and 2015

PRESS RELEASE

New Albany – Josh J. Minkler, the United States Attorney, announced today that four individuals convicted of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal truckloads of high-value merchandise traveling in interstate commerce were sentenced in federal court in New Albany last Friday by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. Among those sentenced were the ringleaders of the theft organization, Roberto Santos-Gonzalez, 37, (“Santos”) and Carlos Enrique Freire-Pifferrer, 39, (“Freire”), as well as Juan Perez-Gonzalez, 44, (“Perez”) and Eduardo Hernandez, 55, (“Hernandez”), two commercial truck drivers who worked with the group.

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 Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and other U.S. 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 merchandize to locations in Kentucky, New Jersey, Florida, and elsewhere, and sell the stolen merchandise for financial gain. 

At the sentencing hearings on Friday, 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 distribute high-end electronics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and cigarettes, among other products. 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, Kentucky, where arrangements would be made to sell the stolen merchandize. 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 telephones, Samsung appliances, Ralph Lauren clothing, Dell Computers, HP computers, Pfizer pharmaceuticals, Mead Johnson baby formula, Lorillard cigarettes, and one truckload of LG cellular telephones valued at $11.9 million.  

The court also heard that many of the members of the group had prior federal convictions for remarkably similar conduct, including Santos, Perez, and Eduardo Hernandez. Due to their prior criminal history and extensive involvement in the new criminal conspiracy, the court on Friday sentenced Santos to 150 months imprisonment and Perez to 108 months imprisonment.  Freire and Hernandez were sentenced to 87 months and 12 months, respectively. Prior to Friday’s hearing, the court sentenced seven other defendants for their role in the conspiracy, including: Orlis Machado-Cantillo (96 months), Mario Hernandez-Oquendo (79 months), Daniel Gonzalez-Insua (72 months), Yoel Palenzuela-Mendez (60 months), Miguel Mompie (57 months), Carlos Mendez-Rosa (40 months), and Ritzy Robert-Montaner (probation).

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 (3) years following their release from custody.

The convictions in this case were the product of a collaborative, years-long investigation 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) Sherriff’s Office, Fayette County (Ohio) Sherriff’s Office, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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Updated May 22, 2018