Passengers flying into Miami International Airport should feel comfort that three luggage-theft suspects have been arrested and charged with a combined eight counts of grand theft.
But passengers should feel a little less comfort at the ease with which Ana Columbie, Wilbert Cabrera-Valdes and Madelaide Martincarreras stole an estimated $23,700 worth of travelers’ property, according to police. Or, that Cabrera-Valdes admitted to stealing bags from MIA throughout November and December before being arrested New Year’s Day.
Miami resident Columbie, facing two counts of third-degree grand theft charges, has been released after posting $5,000 bond on Sunday.
Cabrera-Valdes of Hialeah was taken to Metro West Detention Center on five counts of third-degree grand theft. When arrested, he was six months into a two-year probation for possession of a controlled substance, grand theft auto, possession of a stolen driver’s license and carrying a concealed weapon. Martincarreras’ two-year probation, which she started last March, was for possession of a stolen driver’s license.
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According to the arrest reports, Miami-Dade police’s path to Cabrera-Valdes and Columbie started with a Dec. 18 phone call from a Dec. 15 passenger into MIA who reached baggage claim No. 26 to find her gold luggage already off the belt. Police viewing of surveillance video showed a man waiting at the end of belt, moving toward the middle, then going back to the end before taking two pieces of luggage, one gold and one dark.
Two separate reports of luggage stolen Dec. 26, one for a black Samsonite and the other for a black Tumi bag, directed police to surveillance video of a man and a woman wheeling luggage away from baggage claim No. 25.
On New Year’s Eve, an alert American Airlines employee realized two women waiting at baggage claim No. 23 had picked up baggage the day before. She and her supervisor called police.
Meanwhile, when the women picked up one bag, the American Airlines workers asked for the luggage check tags. Columbie claimed ownership and said she’d go get the bag tags.
Instead, her arrest report says, she never came back and left Martincarreras literally holding the bag. Martincarreras was arrested.
Police soon identified Columbie as Martincarreras’ partner on Dec. 30 and the woman in the Dec. 26 video. That led to Cabrera-Valdes being tabbed as the man with Columbie in the previous theft and the solo stealer on Dec. 15.
When cops got to Cabrera-Valdes’ home, they said they found five pieces of luggage.