Pair convicted in theft of trailer loaded with plasma TVs
July arrests led to investigation into Cuban crime ring
By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor
Dec 19, 2007 - Two July arrests by sheriff’s officers and subsequent investigations by local, state and federal officials culminated in two men pleading guilty in U.S. Federal court Tuesday to the theft of a truckload of expensive Sony televisions, according to Hopkins County Sheriff Butch Adams.
The investigation also connects the pair to the theft of $4 million in pharmaceuticals stolen on State Highway 19, and an organized crime theft ring believed to be responsible for multi-million dollar interstate shipment thefts across the nation.
Mayker Sanchez and Nelson Torres pleaded guilty before U.S. Federal Magistrate Caroline Craven to theft of items valued at more than $200,000 but less than $400,000 from an interstate shipment. They will appear before a U.S. District judge in Texarkana in February for sentencing. The offense is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in the federal penitentiary and a fine of up to $250,000 fine, according to Adams.
Authorities across the nation have been investigating the interstate semi-truck and trailer thefts since Sanchez and Torres were arrested by HCSO Investigators Jace Anglin and Lewis Tatum and Texas Department of Public Safety Motor Vehicle Theft Division Investigator Rex Wilemon.
The pair is expected to be brought back at a later date to face charges for the pharmaceutical theft.
The trailer load of pharmaceutical drugs were reported stolen north of Sulphur Springs in April. Rains County Deputy Charles Dickerson found the trailer on State Highway 19 south, where suspects were caught attempting to paint trailer, apparently to disguise it. Rains County Chief Deputy Kurt Fisher, Investigator Richard Almon and Sheriff David Traylor assisted in recovering the trailer and processing the evidence.
In July, another investigation resulted in Mayker and Torres’ arrests in Wal-Mart parking lot for stealing a truck and trailer loaded with televisions from Love's Travel Center in Franklin County.
Officers were alerted to the theft and were actively keeping a watch for the culprits. Later that day, sheriff’s deputies received a call from a poultry farm on FM 3019 where the truck had been abandoned.
HCSO and DPS Motor Vehicle theft Division investigators set up surveillance in the area. A little over four hours later, the investigators saw a man get out of a car and attempt to start the big rig. When he couldn't get it started, he returned to the car, also occupied by another man, and left.
One sheriff’s investigator stayed behind to monitor the load of plasma TVS while another followed the car, notifying the DPS investigators he was in pursuit. State troopers joined in and followed the vehicle west to Sulphur Springs. The car pulled into Wal-Mart’s parking lot, where one man got out of the car and investigators performed a felony take-down in the parking lot.
Torres was later identified by a worker at the poultry farm as the man who parked the truck on the property.
Mayker and Torres listed Florida addresses when arrested, but the 28- and 29-year-olds were noted to be Cuban natives.
The investigation into the pharmaceutical and television thefts continued, with Northeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force and FBI becoming involved due to the large area covered by the alleged interstate thefts by the “Cuban organized crime theft ring,” which the pair is said to be tied to.
�The investigation of other offenses committed by the crime ring continues,� stated Adams. �So far, several multimillion dollars in interstate cargo have been recovered as a result of the investigation into the crime ring.�
The sheriff commended his officers, as well as those in Rains County, the auto theft task forces and FBI for their work.