POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Florida authorities have arrested two men in connection with a cargo theft ring that saw more than $700,000 in wooden pallets and 25 semi-trailers stolen.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), 45-year-old Bobby John Herrera, Jr. from West Palm Beach and 36-year-old Nicholas Nigel Howard of Opa Locka have been charged with a combined 67 felonies related to the caper.
In late July 2021, PCSO detectives began investigating a reported theft of seven semi-trailers from two different distribution centers – Saddle Creek Logistical Services in Auburndale, Florida, and the Walmart Distribution Center in Winter Haven, Florida, – that contained a large quantity of wooden pallets.
During the initial investigation, detectives were able to identify three semi-trucks filled with pallets that they say had been either stolen or burglarized by Herrera. Herrera is the owner of JCI Pallet in Plant City, Florida.
Security footage obtained by detectives from both Saddle Creek Logistics and the Walmart Distribution Center showed a series of thefts where Herrera drove his company’s 2015 Freightliner semi-truck onto the facilities and illegally removed semi-truck trailers filled with wooden pallets waiting to be delivered to other distribution centers and businesses.
“Herrera was able to circumvent security procedures at the distribution centers to steal the semi-trailers and their contents,” according to the PCSO.
When PCSO detectives traveled to JCI Pallet and met with Herrera, they showed him one of the security videos. Herrera reportedly said, “That looks like me,” according to the PCSO.
Herrera was initially arrested in September with the assistance of the Plant City Police Department and transported to the Hillsborough County Jail, where he was later released on a $4,000 bond.
As the investigation continued, detectives learned that Howard, the on-site manager of JCI Pallet, assisted Herrera in removing stolen trailers filled with pallets from two different distribution centers, affecting four different companies.
Over the months of May, June and July of 2021, the two men planned and coordinated the theft of 25 semi-trailers, which contained almost 5,000 wooden pallets. The stolen trailers and pallets combined are worth approximately $935,663, the PCSO said.
“The victims of Herrara’s and Howard’s organized cargo theft conspiracy were Saddle Creek Logistics, Walmart, 48Forty Solutions and Monison Pallets,” according to the PCSO.
“Detectives tracked the stolen trailers filled with wooden pallets to JCI Pallet, where they were emptied before being returned or abandoned without the stolen cargo. Two of the trailers stolen by Herrera were determined to be empty when they were stolen from the distribution centers.”
All of the stolen trailers were eventually recovered.
Additionally, a business in Alabama, Smith and Company, had hired Herrera to deliver pallets to Saddle Creek Logistical Solutions, but he never delivered the product.
“Instead, he submitted a fraudulently signed bill of ladings (detailed shipment of goods delivered) and invoices for pallets never delivered,” according to the PCSO.
“My detectives, in partnership with the Plant City Police Department, did an outstanding job investigating this organized crime enterprise, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “This type of theft negatively impacts the consumer when business have to raise costs to account for this type of loss. We will work hard to make sure Herrera and Howard are held accountable for these cargo thefts. They won’t have the opportunity to steal while they are in prison.”
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