Three men have been arrested in Miami for their roles in a multi-state theft ring targeting beef and pork packing plants, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The investigation into the ring began in June 2021 with the theft of several semi-trailers containing frozen beef in Lancaster County, Nebraska, according to a news release.
The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office began the investigation along with Homeland Security Investigations Omaha, the news release noted.
Together, investigators identified more than 45 thefts totaling $9 million throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, according to the release. The thefts were traced to a “highly sophisticated organized criminal enterprise” based in Miami.
On October 20, three men who were “main targets of the organized criminal enterprise” were identified and arrested, the statement said. All three were arrested on charges of transporting stolen property and money laundering. Three trucks with a total of $550,000 worth of merchandise were also recovered.
Investigators used cellphone records and electronic surveillance to help uncover multimillion-dollar theft rings, according to CNN affiliate KETV.
“I think it was amazing how, how bold and how extensive it really was,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, according to KETV.
Investigators used cell phone records to identify the devices used in the field when the thieves dumped the empty semi-trailers. They also placed GPS tracking devices on the trailers the men were driving.
According to the sheriff, the thefts may have helped raise meat prices in Nebraska.
“There’s a good reason that maybe our beef prices at the grocery store are higher than they normally would be, just because of the supply chain disruption,” Wagner told KETV.
The investigation into the thefts is ongoing, according to federal authorities.