Florida men plead guilty in cigarette heist

| 1/17/2003

Two Florida men accused of stealing a tractor-trailer laden with $1.8 million worth of cigarettes have pleaded guilty in federal court, The Gainesville Sun reported.

Antonio Evedio Rodriguez and Ricardo Sanchez, both of Hialeah, FL, pleaded guilty Jan. 14 before U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II to charges of aiding and abetting.

The pair were among five men accused of trailing a semi loaded with 42,000 pounds of cigarettes from Huntersville, NC, to a rest area on the West Virginia Turnpike outside of Charleston Sept. 9, 2002.

When the truckdriver went into the service plaza, Rodriguez and Sanchez broke into the rig and hot-wired the ignition, The Sun reported. They then drove north while their alleged accomplices followed them in a van.

State Police located the truck a short time later. Rodriguez and Sanchez were apprehended after a short foot pursuit.

They face up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine when they are sentenced in April, according to the newspaper. The other men also are charged with theft of an interstate shipment in the case.