FBI: 'Cooperating source' led to break in gold heist

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 3/7/2016

The investigation into a nearly $5 million gold heist from the back of a tractor trailer caught a break in January when a confidential informant fingered the man accused of masterminding the robbery.

That’s according to information contained in an unsealed indictment against Adalberto Perez, 46, of Opa Locka, Fla., who was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and firearms charges. He is accused of being one of three men who robbed a tractor-trailer carrying precious metals in Wilson County, N.C., on March 1, 2015.

Courtesy of FBI

Right at one year later, Perez was arrested on March 2 without incident by the FBI. An arraignment is scheduled on March 17 in federal court in Miami.

The confidential source identified Adalberto Perez as the person who planned and organized the gold heist. The informant told federal agents that Perez admitted to the robbery and had a series of conversations with the suspect about the heist, which the source alleges was in the planning stages for more than a year, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.

According to the source, Perez sold off most of his share of the gold, and used the proceeds to buy at least two residences, three cars and a boat. The informant also claims that some of the stolen gold was fashioned into jewelry, including a bracelet, a chain, and a medallion of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of armorers, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives.

The source told investigators that Perez planted a GPS tracking device on the rig and that he and his co-conspirators planted a remote-activated pepper spray in the cab of the truck, which would make the driver and passenger sick.

The affidavit states that the cellphone records for a number registered to Perez show travel on the day of the robbery northbound from Florida to South Carolina, consistent with the records of the cellphones belonging to the TransValue employees.

The affidavit states that the tractor trailer was hauling gold and silver in bulk form for processing in the Bridgewater, Mass., area. Upon entering Wilson County, N.C., both the driver and the passenger claimed to suddenly begin feeling sick. As a result the driver pulled the rig onto the shoulder of Interstate 95 so the passenger could vomit.

Once the passenger was out of the trailer, three unknown Hispanic male subjects pulled in behind the trailer, placed traffic cones close to the trailer, and identified themselves as “Policia” to the driver and passenger. Two of the robbers, armed with handguns, bound the workers’ hands behind their backs.

All told, the thieves absconded with approximately 275 pounds of gold bars and approximately 40 stamped silver plugs (resembling coins). The driver and passenger told police it appeared the robbers knew where to find the containers with the gold, as they ignored a number of containers containing only silver, the affidavit states.

The gold belonged to Republic Metals, of Opa Locka, Fla., where Perez lives.

In April 2015, federal agents were able to recover a single gold bar and arrest one man in connection with trying to fence some of the merchandise. According to the affidavit, an individual identified as “G.M.” attempted to sell one of the bars to a precious metals refinery in Doral, Fla. The refinery, NTR Metals, refused to accept the bar and contacted the FBI. When agents questioned G.M. and performed a search of his residence, they located one gold bar bearing the seal of Republic Metals and containing a unique identifying number matching one of the bars stolen in the March 1 robbery.

G.M. told agents that the gold had been given to him to sell by a man whom he identified as Miguel Bovar. Bovar was arrested and charged via grand jury indictment with charges of conspiracy and extortion. He pleaded guilty to attempted extortion and aiding and abetting on July 7, 2015, and was sentenced to about 3 1/2 years in prison. He is not believed to have been one of the three men who committed the actual robbery.

Investigators seek additional information about this robbery and continue to offer a reward of up to $25,000.

If anyone has information as to the identity of the robbers in the police sketches, they are urged to call the FBI at 754-703-2000 or contact Crimestoppers.

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