Expert says cargo of liquor stolen in Athens (Georgia) most likely in South Florida black market
Source: Online Athens
By Wayne Ford
July 20, 2015
The $100,000 worth of liquor and wine aboard a tractor-trailer rig that was stolen in Athens on June 27 was most likely taken to South Florida by an organized gang, according to an expert on cargo theft.
Stolen alcohol typically goes to Kentucky or South Florida, said Tom Mann, president of Traklok, a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., that produces a security system for big rigs to thwart such thefts as happened in Athens.
Because of where the theft occurred, Mann said the alcohol was likely taken to South Florida.
Beverages and food are high targets for organized thieves and the higher the value the more common the theft, Mann said.
“It’s pretty staggering when you think of what goes on out there,” Mann said. “It’s difficult to say but to give you an idea, a load in a single truck can run into the millions depending on the commodity. Hard liquor is of much higher value than beer.”
The theft in Athens is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Major Theft Unit based in Conyers. Local authorities believe the theft is the work of an organized ring. The cargo, hauled by an independent trucker from Athens, was being moved from Birmingham, Ala., to another location when it was stolen while the truck was parked overnight in Athens, police said.
“We’re still doing the basics, following leads and trying to develop leads,” the unit’s commander John Cannon said recently.
Cargo thefts are estimated at $10 billion to $25 billion a year in the U.S., according to the GBI.
Mann said these organized rings target prime cargo.
“Things like perfume, alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals and some electronics, they know where they are kept. It’s not hard to find where the facilities are at,” said Mann, who described the GBI’s cargo theft unit as one of the finest in the nation.
The investigators “know exactly what is happening,” he said.
In this case, Mann said it’s likely the thieves stole another truck and trailer from somewhere else, then stole the truck in Athens, and transferred the contents, before abandoning the Athens truck in Lawrenceville.
Normally, when a cargo theft occurs, law enforcement notify each other so weigh stations along interstates and officers working these freeways can be on the lookout for the stolen rig. And that’s why the thieves transfer the contents onto another truck, he said.
In some instances, the thieves are concerned about tracking devices embedded in the merchandise, so they may sit on the trailer for 24 hours to see if anyone comes for it before transferring the load, he said.
“These guys do it for a living. If you look at FBI statistics, it’s in the billions of dollars and it happens every day,” he said.
The theft in Athens is not a high value load in terms of most cargo thefts, Mann said.
The largest cargo theft this year was a shipment of $4.8 million in gold bars that was stolen along I-95 in North Carolina, according to Mann.
These thieves watch truckers and wait for an opportunity to pull the heist, such as when the driver goes to the bathroom, have a meal or stop overnight, according to Mann. And they work in groups of three to seven people, he said.
“What makes them nervous are team drivers,” he said. “If you steal a truck with cargo on it and nobody is there, it’s basically a civil issue …. if there is a driver there and you hijack it or pull a gun on him, you’ve got a significant felony.”