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5 arrested in theft ring targeting train cars

July 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Five Southern California men were indicted Friday by a federal grand jury for their alleged roles in a large-scale theft operation that targeted railroad freight cars carrying flat-screen televisions and other expensive items.The men were arrested shortly after midnight on June 25 in San Bernardino County, after several of them allegedly unloaded 45 flat-screen 3D televisions, valued at nearly $200,000, from an eastbound freight car parked temporarily on a railroad siding, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Four of those indicted in connection with the theft scheme have been identified as Los Angeles residents Leo Meza-Cruz, 41, Filemon Rios-Ramos, 42, Hector Bernal Anaya, 25, and 38-year-old Jesus Reyes Galvez. The fifth defendant, Eric Lopez, 41, is from Pomona, according to ICE.

The four-count indictment alleges conspiracy, theft of interstate commerce, receipt of stolen property from interstate commerce and breaking and entering a carrier facility.

Grainy night-vision footage shot by investigators at the scene just prior to the arrests shows three shadowy figures, two of them defendants, removing large boxes from a rail car, then carrying them away from the tracks and hiding them in the brush, according to ICE.

Immigration agents said the thieves would scout trains departing the Los Angeles area to identify those potentially carrying high-end cargo. In a conversation described in the indictment, one of the defendants told a confidential informant how he and the others traveled to Barstow, where some members of the crew would hide in the rail cars, according to ICE.

If their activities went undetected, the defendants would allegedly begin removing cargo from the cars. If the men suspected they were being watched, they would ride the train farther east seeking another opportunity, investigators said.

Three of the counts contained in the indictment, theft of interstate property, receipt of stolen interstate property and breaking and entering a carrier facility, carry a maximum federal prison sentence of up to 10 years. The conspiracy violation is punishable by up to five years in prison.

All five suspects remain in federal custody. Three of the men, Rios-Ramos, Meza-Cruz and Lopez, are scheduled to be arraigned July 19 in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Arraignment for the remaining two defendants, Anaya and Galvez, is set for Aug. 2.


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