A Florida man and woman were part of a group of thieves who used forklifts and semi-trailers to steal $1.6 million worth of alcohol from a warehouse in Gibsonton, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Miguel Angel Artiles Rivas, 33, has already been arrested, but authorities are still searching for 54-year-old Ruth Melly Cordero, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Friday, November 3.
The heist took place in July 2023.
On July 8, a group of suspects broke into the Republic National Distributing Co. building just after 6 a.m. They then used the company’s equipment to load pallets that held more than $1.6 million in alcohol into semi-trailers.
Of course, their crime didn’t go entirely smoothly. Authorities say that in their haste to grab as much as they could and get out before getting caught, they destroyed $30,000 worth of product in the process, per an arrest affidavit.
Miguel Rivas was arrested six days later.
He was seen driving one of the semis used in the robbery, which had been spotted on a neigboring company’s surveillance footage and later at Estrada’s Truck and Auto in Wimauma. That’s where they found and arrested Rivas, who’s job on jail records is simply listed as “truck driver.”
Police used the data from his cell phone to put him at the location of the crime on the night it took place. However, he didn’t stay behind bars for long, posting $125,000 bail only two days later, on July 16.
Rivas pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, and it’s unclear when he’s due back in court.
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Police have recovered most of the stolen goods.
A combined investigation between the Florida Highway Patrol and other authorities led Hillsborough detectives to a storage facility in Hialeah, where they found more than $1.5 million worth of the stolen alcohol and returned it to the owner.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said that the investigation is ongoing and that they “anticipate further arrests.” They’re hoping that Ruth Melly Cordero will be among them.