Truckload with $44 million in pharmaceuticals stolen, trailer found empty

| 7/21/2008

A truck loaded with $44 million worth of expensive cancer-fighting medication was stolen Wednesday, July 16, in what appears to be the latest instance a growing trend of highly organized truck and trailer thefts.

The director of a security company said organized thieves appear to be behind the theft.

The truck was stolen from a TA truck stop parking lot in Jeffersonville, OH, while its team drivers were inside for about seven minutes.

The thieves disabled the truck’s GPS before quickly swapping out a tractor and trailer, which is consistent with how some Miami-based gangs operate, said Chuck Forsaith, corporate director for supply chain security at Coventry, Rhode Island-based Purdue Pharma Technologies Inc.

The trailer of cancer-fighting prescription drugs had an estimated retail value of $44 million.

In an unrelated case, a Penske truck hauling $288,000 worth of morphine, methadone and oxycodone was hijacked at gunpoint Thursday, July 17, in Tuscaloosa, AL.

The driver in that incident was tied up, and the truck was later found burned about 100 miles away.

“To date, none of these products have been recovered,” Forsaith said Friday, July 19.

It didn’t take long for both cargo thefts to reach the radar of the Tactical Operations Multi-Agency Cargo Anti-Theft Squad, a commercial truck oriented anti-theft and anti-terrorism task force housed at the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Miami-Dade officials are aware of the thefts but are not specifically investigating them, Lt. Commander Twan Uptgrow, who heads up the TOMCATS task force.

In an interview with Land Line, Uptgrow said the number and value of stolen goods in cargo thefts from commercial trucks have exploded in recent years as highly organized theft rings have targeted freight moved by truck drivers.

The estimated annual loss from cargo theft “from the FBI is upwards of $30 billion,” Uptgrow said.

“What we have is these theft groups, organized theft groups, that target cargo all across the nation,” Uptgrow said. “These groups are based everywhere, and they’re often organized through ethnic-based groups.”

– By Reed Black and Charlie Morasch, staff writers