Nine Arrested In Seafood Hijackings
MIAMI (AP) _ Seafood hijackings in South Florida have cost millions of dollars and forced truckers to take extra precautions, officials said after nine men were arrested in a $300,000 heist of shrimp and lobster.
The FBI arrested the men Tuesday on theft of interstate shipments and conspiracy charges after warehouse employees in suburban Medley told police men were unloading seafood from a rented refrigerator truck, FBI spokesman Paul Miller said.
The men were caught unloading nearly 60,000 pounds of Ecuadorean white shrimp that was stolen during a truck hijacking Friday in Glades County, about 100 miles northwest of Miami, Miller said.
The truck was seized by a group of men when the driver stopped to check his tires. The driver was found blindfolded Saturday morning, Miller said.
The tractor was found in Miami Monday night, but the 44-foot trailer was still missing, he said.
The FBI estimates that thefts of lobster and shrimp packed into freezer rigs are totaling some $2 million a year in South Florida.
″Once you get the critters out of the box, they don’t have no serial numbers on them,″ said Dan Campbell, operations manager of Honey Transport in Plymouth, Fla. His company has lost four loads within three years.
Some companies forbid their drivers from staying overnight in the Miami area and order them to call in frequently.
″Miami is the only place where we’ll fire a driver for not doing it,″ said Dwayne Tyner, co-owner of Valley Trucking in Brownsville, Texas. ″It’s that serious.″
Tyner flew to Miami over the weekend to try to track down $250,000 worth of lobster tails and breaded shrimp stolen last Thursday night when gunmen attacked a driver at a truck stop in West Palm Beach.
The FBI and trucking company owners think well-organized seafood salesmen are behind the hijackings. Authorities say the salesmen stake out cold storage warehouses in Miami, follow trucks and strike when the drivers are alone.
Sometimes, loose-lipped drivers tip off robbers by chatting too much over their citizens band radios, truckers said.
″Someone asks me what I’m hauling, I tell them it’s scrap meat for dog food,″ said Neil Ehlers, a trucker from Minnesota.