Nebraska: suspected thieves of $9 million in frozen meat arrested

Suspected thieves of $9 million in frozen meat caught in more than 40 robberies in different parts of the United States; authorities describe the criminal group as "highly sophisticated".

Three alleged members of a highly sophisticated organized crime ring were caught in connection with the multi-million dollar theft of several thousand pounds of frozen meat from beef and pork packing plants in Nebraska and five other U.S. states.

The thefts from the meat containers occurred on separate occasions. The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and the Omaha Homeland Security Investigation identified approximately 45 thefts that occurred in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, totaling $9 million in losses.

An investigation was initiated into several stolen semitrailers containing frozen meat that occurred in Lancaster County on June 27 with an estimated loss of $1 million.

The investigation began to connect the dots, identified common denominators in these cases, and determined that beef was stolen not only from Grand Island but also that there were more cases and the thefts continued.

In one instance, thieves used fraudulent documents to steal 40,000 pounds of beef from a JBS Beef plant, while, in another, they stole several truck trailers containing $500,000 worth of beef from another JBS plant.

The thieves removed the GPSs from the trailers, had knowledge of the truck operation, and knew where to find the trailers. Authorities noted that the suspects knew what to look for and where to look and, in some cases, had false bills of lading.

Finally, on October 20, in a joint effort by HSI Omaha, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, and HSI Miami – El Dorado Task Force South, Ledier Machin Andino, Delvis L. Fuentes, and Yoslany Leyva Del Sol, alleged members of a Florida-based criminal group, were identified and arrested.

The suspects were captured by cross-referencing their mobile devices with specific cellular communication towers at the time and location of some of the robberies.

In addition to making the arrests, three truck trailers containing allegedly stolen meat with an estimated value of $550,000 were also recovered. The arrestees now face charges of transportation of stolen property and money laundering.

This investigation is ongoing and is part of HSI’s Lancaster/Omaha County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Task Force.