Nearly a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the daring heist of more than $70 million in prescription drugs from an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut two years ago, as well as other pharmaceutical thefts in New Jersey and Virginia, according to the US Attorney in New Haven (back story). The ringleaders, who are from Cuba, and their accomplices were processed this afternoon at FBI offices in Miami.
The crime gained national attention because the thieves cut a hole in the roof of the Lilly distribution center, a non-descript building in Enfield, Connnecticut, a brazen scheme that drew life-imitating-art comparisons to the cable television program, 'The Sopranos,' which was popular at the time. The escapade also focused a spotlight on the growing problem of such heists, which the pharmaceutical industry has worked diligently to combat in recent years.
The Lilly theft was masterminded by Amaury Villa, 37, who flew from Miami to Connecticut to case the warehouse in January 2010, and then had an associate lease two tractor trailer trucks the next month, according to the US Attorney. After returning to Florida, he flew to New York in March 2010 and, the day before the burglary, bought tools at a Home Depot store in Flushing, New York, near La Guardia Airport.
Villa (pictured to the right) then drove to Windsor, Connecticut, and checked into a hotel on the night of March 13, 2010. He and his accomplices later drove to the warehouse, although they were picked up by Lilly surveillance video at one point. Nonetheless, they had the warehouse to themselves. For five hours, they used a forklift inside the building to load numerous boxes of different Lilly meds, including the Zyprexa antipsychotic, Gemzar cancer med and Prozac antidepressant. Villa, however, made at least one mistake - he touched a water bottle and left it in the building.
From there, the stolen drugs were driven to Florida. Among those arrested were Amed Villa; Ernesto Romero Vidal; Abel Mesa Samper; Michael Rangel; Suhong Wu; Geovanni Gonzalez; Pedro Rangel; Carlos Alberto Valdes; Yanni Sanchez, and Leonardo Manuel Guerra, according to the indictment (which you can read here). The Villa brothers are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft from an interstate shipment, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, and four counts of theft from an interstate shipment, each of which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years (here is a statement from the feds).