Three men have been arrested in Miami for their role in a multistate theft ring targeting beef and pork packaging plants, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
An investigation into the ring began in June 2021 with the theft of several semitrailers containing frozen beef in Lancaster County, Nebraska, according to a news release.
The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation alongside Homeland Security Investigations Omaha, the news release noted.
Together, investigators identified more than 45 thefts amounting to $9 million across Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, according to the release. They traced the thefts to a “highly sophisticated organized criminal enterprise” based in Miami.
On October 20, three men who were “principal targets in the organized criminal enterprise” were identified and arrested, according to the release. All three were arrested for transportation of stolen goods and money laundering. Three trucks with a total of $550,000 worth of stolen merchandise were also recovered.
Investigators used cell phone records and electronic surveillance to help uncover the multimillion dollar theft ring, according to CNN affiliate KETV.
“I think it was surprising how, how brazen and how wide scale it really was,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, according to KETV.
Investigators used cell phone records to identify devices used in the area 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 contributed to rising meat prices in Nebraska.
“A good reason why maybe our beef prices are higher in the grocery stores than they might have normally been, just because of the interruption in the supply chain,” Wagner said to KETV.
The investigation into the thefts is ongoing, according to federal officials.