South Florida

FBI cracked the Miami-N.C. gold heist, but where are nine missing bars?

Republic Metals, a precious metals refinery based in Opa-Locka, was the victim of the gold heist. Only one bar off 10 stolen has been recovered.
Republic Metals, a precious metals refinery based in Opa-Locka, was the victim of the gold heist. Only one bar off 10 stolen has been recovered.

More than a year after the daring heist, where are the gold bars?

When three Miami men stole 10 bars from a courier truck at gunpoint off a North Carolina highway, FBI agents would have an easier time cracking the case than recovering the $5 million worth of gold.

In fact, agents have recovered only one of the stolen bars — from a Miami pawnbroker soon after the March 1, 2015, caper. The rest has likely been cut up, melted down and resold in the local jewelry market, according to newly released court records. The gold, which was being shipped to Massachusetts, belonged to an Opa-locka precious metals refinery.

A Miami jeweler recently admitted to federal prosecutors that he fenced several of the 26-pound bars for two men charged in the case: Adalberto Perez, 45, who is awaiting trial in June, and Roberto Cabrera, 59, who has pleaded guilty.

In a plea agreement, Yanan Mirabal estimated that he made about $1.2 million for Perez from gold sales to an unnamed jeweler in Miami’s Seybold Building as well as to another local jewelry shop. He said he also made some jewelry from the gold for Perez. Mirabal also made an additional $200,000 for Cabrera in gold sales, according to a statement filed with the agreement.

Mirabal, 30, admitted he last sold gold for Perez in September and Cabrera in November, receiving a commission from 2 to 4 percent for each transaction.

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“Perez and Cabrera brought him gold pieces that appeared to be cut from a larger piece,” said the statement, filed by prosecutor Michael Gilfarb. “He admitted that Perez and Cabrera were present when he used his equipment to melt and reform gold that they provided him. He reformed them into small, rectangular bars . . . adding metals to the gold to dilute the purity percentage.”

Mirabal pleaded guilty last week and received a probationary sentence for lying to federal agents about his role in fencing the gold bars, which were divided evenly among three robbers. FBI agents have been unable to arrest a yet-to-be-named third suspect, who has fled the area. That man is suspected of trying to fence the one stolen bar recovered early on from the local pawnbroker.

An Opa-locka company, Republic Metals Corp., which owned the gold shipment that was stolen during transport to Massachusetts in March of last year, did not return a call for comment.

In December — nine months after the heist — FBI agents caught a big break.

A confidential source — Perez’s former girlfriend — shared “intimate knowledge of the robbery” with FBI agents, pointing them not only to her ex-boyfriend’s role but Mirabal’s part as the seller of the stolen gold, according to Mirabal’s plea agreement.

In early March, agents arrested Perez and found more than $600,000 in cash — but no gold. They also arrested Cabrera at the same time, based on a sketch and other information from one of the two courier drivers.

Days later, agents went to Mirabal’s Miami home. He told them that he knew Perez and Cabrera because he had sold each of them a car. But Mirabal denied that the two men “ever brought him any gold in any form,” according to the FBI. Mirabal said he kept jewelry equipment in his home but did not use it to “melt and reform” gold. He also said he had not made any money dealing in gold since the closing of his business in 2013.

All lies, agents would learn.

They found more than $76,000 in cash hidden at his house and gold melting equipment — along with several receipts showing sales of gold to a shop in the Seybold Building in downtown Miami. The shop’s records showed that Mirabal made more than $650,000 in gold sales in the months immediately after the heist.

Perez’s ex-girlfriend also told FBI agents that he used a stolen credit card to buy a GPS device the robbers placed under a Miami tractor-trailer truck to track the TransValue couriers. She also said he, Cabrera and the third robber placed pepper spray in the courier truck and remotely activated it so the drivers would get sick and have to pull over on Interstate 95 in North Carolina on the way to Massachusetts.

The robbers confronted the couriers at gunpoint and yelled in Spanish, “Policia!”

They tied the couriers’ hands behind their backs and made them walk into the nearby woods. They then unloaded the gold bars and some silver plugs into their white van.

Upon returning to Miami, “the conspirators evenly divided the gold and subsequently began the process of breaking it down for sale and selling it,” according to a statement filed with Cabrera’s plea agreement.

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