The first accused Miami robber in a $5 million gold heist plans to plead guilty Monday to participating in the brazen plot to steal the precious-metals load from a courier truck stopped at gunpoint on a North Carolina highway.
Roberto Cabrera is scheduled to plead guilty in Miami federal court to conspiracy offenses of carrying out the March 1, 2015 robbery and using a firearm, along with possessing a bullet-proof vest that was found by FBI agents during a search last month at his home.
Cabrera’s plea agreement was reached between his defense attorney, Bruce Fleisher, and federal prosecutor Michael Gilfarb. Cabrera, 59, who has a prior criminal record, faces a potentially long prison sentence
Cabrera’s expected plea follows last month’s arrest of his alleged partner, Adalberto Perez, an Opa-locka man who hatched the robbery scheme the previous year, FBI agents say. Perez, 46, has pleaded not guilty.
Using a stolen credit card, 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 thieves could track and rob the couriers, agents allege in a criminal complaint. Cabrera, though not identified in the complaint, is one of the other robbers. The third suspect is still at large.
During the investigation, FBI agents questioned a “confidential source” involved in a “close, personal relationship” with Perez. The source, his girlfriend, disclosed details of Perez's 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 the couriers 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 of the trailer and a passenger 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.”
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.
A third targeted robber in the heist, who is still at large, is suspected of contacting another Miami man about fencing one of the gold 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 stemming from the fencing scheme. He agreed to cooperate with the U.S. attorney's office.
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.