A not-so meticulously planned plot to hijack a truck carrying almost $1 million worth of iPhones was foiled last week by Miami-Dade detectives who spent two weeks undercover observing the crew.
Twice in October and again in November, police working on a tip, followed the trio of men from a Doral cargo company as they tailed box trucks carrying the cellphones, then took off when the goods were delivered.
At one point, according to police, the men sat outside a facility in Doral for more than nine hours, watching trucks get loaded and come and go.
Finally, on Nov. 4, police said, the men struck, or at least tried to: With a copy of a truck key in hand, the men followed the vehicle from the Doral cargo company Anicam to another cargo company near Miami International Airport.
When the driver got out of the truck and entered the business, one of the men quickly got into the driver’s seat and tried to drive away. But the would-be thief and the two men he was with were taken into custody.
Another vehicle tagging behind the group, a 2007 Honda Odyssey with a Miami Heat tag and the license plate number L3AJP, managed to get away, police said.
Arrested and charged with one count each of stalking and several counts of conspiracy to commit grand theft were Daniel Ramirez-Castillo, 29, Yoel Brito, 42 and Luis Miguel Cordova, 39.
“They’re professional thieves. This is very well organized,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Daniel Ferrin.
The arrest affidavits for the trio busted Nov. 4 say police caught wind of the plan to steal the cellphones while conducting an earlier investigation. Police didn’t say what that earlier investigation involved. Late last month, however, federal agents made a similar sting.
On Oct. 25, eight people were charged in federal court with stealing 23,000 Apple iPhones in a tractor-trailer at Miami International Airport. The phones were valued at $6.7 million. Prosecutors said the group used fake identification and altered the trailer to appear as if it belonged to a legitimate company.
Then they stored the cellphones in a storage facility and sold them in bunches. They were charged with conspiracy to steal goods from an interstate or foreign shipment, theft and possession and conspiracy to receive said goods.
Police said they began a surveillance operation on the trio a day after the October indictment, on Oct. 26, when a truck from the Doral cargo company Anicam at 1770 NW 96th Ave. was followed to 8382 NW 68th St.
“The defedants cased the victim and fled the scene,” according to Brito’s arrest affidavit.
A day later on Oct. 26, the police reports say, the men again followed a truck from Anicam, this time to 4500 NW 36th St., before taking off. The following day and again on Nov. 1, according to police, the trio followed another truck, this time to the airport.
Inside two of the trucks: $300,000 worth of cellphones.
Then, according to police, on Nov. 4 when the men finally made their move, the trap was in place.
This time, a cargo truck carrying $800,000 worth of iPhones that the trio were following was being driven by an undercover cop. When the driver got to Atlas Air at 6640 NW 22nd St., he left the truck and police say Cordova got in. He and his two associates were taken into custody.
The Honda Odyssey trailing the truck fled the scene. Police are still looking for it.