A year-old gold heist on a North Carolina highway has taken another turn back to Miami.
FBI agents arrested a local man on Wednesday for his alleged “involvement” in the robbery of a tractor-trailer carrying about 275 pounds of the precious metals valued at $5 million from Republic Metals in Opa-locka to Massachusetts, investigators said.
The defendant, Adalberto Perez, 46, of Opa-locka, is scheduled to have his initial appearance in Miami federal court on Thursday.
The FBI said it continues to investigate the heist and has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of other suspects believed to have participated in the robbery off Interstate 95 in Wilson County, N.C., on March 1 of last year. Agents provided the news media with sketches of two other suspects in the case, but the criminal complaint for Perez’s arrest has not been unsealed, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
In September, a Miami man who tried to fence one of the 10 gold bars stolen during the heist pleaded guilty to an extortion-related charge and was sentenced to about 3 1/2 years in prison.
Soon after the highway heist, Miguel Bover approached a Miami pawn shop broker and asked him to try to sell the bar to another local precious-metals refinery, NTR Metals in Doral.
The scheme backfired when an off-duty police officer working at the refinery grew suspicious and called the FBI. Agents confronted the pawn broker and confiscated the roughly 26-pound gold bar, which didn't go down well with the suspected thieves.
Last April, agents quietly arrested Bover, 50, who they suspected was working with the robbers to threaten the pawn broker to pay them off or give back the stolen bar.
But because of his insider knowledge and cooperation with investigators, Bover could get a sentence reduction down the road. Bover's defense attorney, Rick Hermida, declined to comment on Wednesday about his client’s possible assistance in the FBI case against Perez and other suspects.
The FBI has declined to comment about Bover, a Cuban national.
The fencing effort followed a daring rip-off of a Miami-based armored truck courier, which had picked up the gold shipment and headed north on I-95 to a destination in the Boston area, according to the FBI and North Carolina investigators.
But the highly valuable load, which belonged to Republic Metals, never got delivered.
On the evening of March 1, 2015,, as the TransValue couriers from Miami stopped along a dark stretch of the highway in North Carolina, three armed robbers pulled up in a white minivan and confronted them at gunpoint, yelling “Policía!”
The two courier guards got out of the tractor-trailer without their guns. The robbers gave instructions in Spanish, tied the guards' hands behind their backs and led them into nearby woods. The thieves cut the padlock on the truck's trailer and offloaded five-gallon buckets that contained 10 gold bars. They put them in their van and fled.
How the robbers initially contacted Bover after the heist is unclear from court records, but this much is certain: In April, Bover contacted the pawn broker about selling the gold bar, which bore the seal of the heist's victim, Republic Metals, one of the largest precious-metals refineries in the world.