Crime

FBI: Opa-locka man directed daring N.C. gold-heist plot

The FBI is seeking a man who looks like this as a suspect in the heist of a gold bar shipment.
The FBI is seeking a man who looks like this as a suspect in the heist of a gold bar shipment.

A daring plot to rob $5 million worth of gold from a courier truck along a dark North Carolina highway was hatched in Miami one year before the caper was carried out by an Opa-locka man arrested this week, FBI agents say.

Using a stolen credit card, Adalberto Perez bought a GPS device and placed it under a Miami tractor-trailer truck that was carrying 275 pounds of gold so that he and two other Hispanic men could track and rob the couriers on a March evening last year, agents allege in a newly unsealed criminal complaint.

During the investigation, FBI agents questioned a “confidential source” involved in a “close, personal relationship” with Perez who disclosed details of his alleged heist of 10 gold bars as well as 40 silver-stamped coins, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.

The girlfriend said she not only received the GPS and gave it to Perez. But the defendant also told her that he and his two co-conspirators placed pepper spray in the courier truck and remotely activated it so they would get sick and have to pull over on Interstate 95 in North Carolina on the way to Massachusetts, the eventual destination.

Perez and his partners — who have not yet been arrested — confronted them at gunpoint and yelled in Spanish, “Policia!”

“Once the [truck] was stopped, Perez told [his girlfriend] that the other two armed robbers bound the driver and passenger of the trailer while Perez cut the lock in order to offload the gold,” the affidavit said, noting that Perez was also armed.

“Perez told [her] that he and the other two robbers split the gold bars equally.”

Prosecutors are seeking to detain Perez, 46, before trial at a bond hearing on Tuesday in Miami federal court. His defense attorney, Frank Gaviria, declined to comment about the complaint accusing Perez of robbery conspiracy and possessing a firearm.

“We're going to conduct our own investigation into these serious allegations,” Gaviria told the Herald.

After the March 1, 2015 robbery, Perez showed [his girlfriend] one of the gold bars in the living room of his Opa-locka home, according to the FBI affidavit. She “touched the bar and felt that it was heavy,” roughly 26 pounds.

She told agents that Perez “chipped away” pieces of the gold bars with hand tools and started selling them that spring through an individual who melted it down for him. Perez sold his entire share of the gold bars and stored the money throughout his home, including a safe, the affidavit said.

The girlfriend took a photo of one of the gold bars and showed it to FBI agents. They confirmed it was one of the 10 stolen in the North Carolina heist, noting the stamped marking of its owner, Republic Metals of Opa-locka, and the matching serial number.

Perez, FBI agents say, bought two modest Miami-Dade homes with his gold profits, one for $90,000 and another for $118,000. He also purchased three Nissan vehicles for himself, his daughter and his son, along with a boat for $7,500.

He also had some of the stolen gold made into jewelry, including a bracelet, a chain and a medallion with Saint Barbara.

Another Miami suspect, Roberto Cabrera, was also arrested this week on a charge of possessing a bullet-proof vest that agents found in his Miami home. Agents suspect Cabrera, who has a criminal history, introduced one of Perez’s two partners in the gold robbery to a Miami man who has already been convicted of trying to fence one of the bars from the caper.

In September, Miguel Bover, 50, was sentenced to about 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to an extortion-related charge. He agreed to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office. His attorney, Rick Hermida, declined to comment for this story.

Soon after the highway heist, 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, according to court records.

The scheme backfired when an off-duty police officer working at the refinery grew suspicious and called the FBI. Agents confronted the pawn broker, Guillermo Morales, and confiscated the gold bar from him. That didn't sit well with the suspected thieves, who wanted their bar back or money.

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