2 arrested in $80 million drug heist

May 3 2012 - 5:25pm

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Two Miami men have been arrested in the dramatic theft of $80 million in pharmaceuticals from an Eli Lilly Co. warehouse in Enfield, Conn., two years ago, federal authorities announced Thursday.

Amaury Villa, 37, and his brother, Amed Villa, 46, both citizens of Cuba who live in Miami, were arrested Thursday in Miami on conspiracy and theft charges related to their alleged participation in the theft.

The thieves gained access to the 70,000-square-foot warehouse by cutting a hole through its roof, descending into the interior on ropes hung from the hole and disabling the security system.

"As far as we know, this brazen crime was the biggest theft in the history of Connecticut and the largest theft of pharmaceuticals in the United States," said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein.

The two men were indicted in New Haven on charges of theft of interstate shipment and conspiracy.

The indictment, which was returned March 12 and unsealed Thursday, detailed evidence of interstate travel, hotel stays, equipment purchases and vehicle rentals in connection with the crime, which was in the planning stages for several months, federal authorities said. Charges brought in related indictments in Illinois and Florida indicate the two men also were involved in large warehouse thefts of pharmaceuticals and other goods elsewhere on the East Coast and in Illinois.

In January 2010, Amaury Villa flew from Miami to LaGuardia Airport, where he rented a car, drove to Connecticut and checked into a hotel in Windsor, authorities said. The following day, Lilly surveillance video recorded him peering through the front door of the Enfield warehouse, the indictment says. The next day, he returned to LaGuardia and flew back to Miami.

In February 2010, the indictment charges, an associate of Amaury leased two tractor-trailers from a company called TransUSA Inc. Amaury is a registered agent of the trucking company.

The day before the robbery, Amaury again flew to LaGuardia and drove to the same hotel in Windsor. Between 10:22 and 10:32 p.m. on March 13, 2010, the Lilly warehouse surveillance captured images of more individuals.

After 10:30 p.m., people using tools that had been purchased earlier at a Home Depot in New York cut a hole in the warehouse roof and disabled parts of the security system, federal authorities said.

Over the next five hours, Amed Villa and others used a forklift inside the warehouse to load numerous boxes of pharmaceuticals, including Zyprexa, Prozac and Gemzar, into a trailer truck, federal authorities said. They also said that Amed Villa touched a water bottle stored in the warehouse and left that bottle there.

The indictment charges that the tractor-trailer left Lilly's property at 3:40 a.m. on March 14, 2010. Later that morning, Amaury Villa checked out of his hotel room in Windsor, and his rental car was recorded passing through the southbound toll on the Whitestone Bridge in New York at 11:35 a.m. On March 15, federal authorities said, Amaury flew from LaGuardia to Miami.

Amaury and Amed both face a maximum of five years in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit theft from interstate shipment. They also face four counts of theft from interstate shipment, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

As a result of investigations by Fein's office and other law enforcement agencies into large-scale thefts of pharmaceuticals in Enfield and elsewhere, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in Miami on Thursday announced a related indictment against 11 individuals, including Amaury Villa, on various charges related to the possession and sale of stolen products, including pharmaceuticals stolen from the Lilly warehouse in Enfield.

One count of the Florida indictment accuses Amaury Villa of possessing 4,654 boxes of pharmaceuticals stolen from the Lilly warehouse. As part of the investigation in Florida, on Oct. 14, 2011, a search of a storage facility in Florida recovered pharmaceuticals that had been stolen from the Enfield warehouse.

In addition, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois announced Thursday an indictment there, in which Amed Villa is charged with the theft of more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes valued at more than $8 million from a warehouse in Tazewell County, Ill., on Jan. 24, 2010.


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