FBI still searching for driver, load of nickels

| 1/10/2005

The FBI is still looking for a trucker and the load of nickles he was hauling when he and his truck went missing in December.

FBI agents have released a description of the driver, Angel Ricardo Mendoza, 42, of Hialeah, FL, Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the Miami office of the FBI, said.

Mendoza is described as a 5-foot, 10-inch-tall black Hispanic male with black hair and brown eyes, weighing 210 pounds. While his address is listed in Hialeah – a town on the Northwest side of Miami – Mendoza has been connected to multiple addresses “all over the country.”

His white 2001 white Freightliner and the 2005 white Utility trailer he was pulling have both been recovered. Both the tractor and trailer had temporary Florida tags.

Orihuela said agents had not yet found either the driver or the load.

The tractor-trailer picked up the 45,000-pound load in East Rutherford, NJ, bound for New Orleans. It was scheduled to arrive Monday, Dec. 20, in the Big Easy, but was last heard from that day as it passed through Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

The rig was found at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, at the Flying J Truck Stop in Fort Pierce, FL, Orihuela told Land Line. The load was gone, and the driver was not with the vehicle.

The rig – operated by Geller Transportation of Miami – was carrying 3.6 million nickels worth $180,000 contained in 900 bags each weighing 50 pounds.

Orihuela said investigators were still not sure why the driver went to Florida with the load, which was shipped out of New Jersey headed to New Orleans.

“They’re not really sure why,” she said. “It looks like he was doing the typical route and then he just made a detour.”

Orihuela said the FBI would like to speak with Mendoza, although she did not identify him as a suspect.

Anyone who has information on Mendoza’s whereabouts or information on the theft of the nickels – or who might have seen the truck as it made its ill-fated run – is encouraged to call the Miami office of the FBI at (305) 944-9101.

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor