Thieves Who Made Off With $9 Million Of Meat Have Been Caught

In the movies, when the ring of thieves gather to plan their heist, the target is typically diamonds, or large quantities of cash — preferably secreted in a seemingly impenetrable vault. There aren't any heist films that we know of where the suave and debonair thieves decide to steal millions of dollars worth of meat. Of course, most heist movies aren't set in the American Midwest.

The Midwest region has been plagued by a recent wave of thefts — about 45 in total — resulting in $9 million dollars in stolen meat, according to a news release from the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office in Nebraska. Beef and pork-focused meatpacking facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have all been victimized by the "highly sophisticated" ring of thieves, but it was the theft of multiple tractor-trailers filled with frozen beef in Nebraska this summer that alerted law enforcement to the meat-related crime spree.

The million-dollar Nebraska heist prompted the formation of a joint Major Crimes Task Force involving the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office and the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) office in Omaha. This task force linked the thefts, notes the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and has now succeeded, in conjunction with HSI Miami and the Florida Highway Patrol, in arresting three people in connection with the crimes.

Three men arrested amid an ongoing investigation

As the inclusion of the Florida-based agencies suggests, all three of the arrestees hail from that state. The Washington Post reports that Miami residents Ledier Machin Andino, Yoslany Leyva Del Sol, and Delvis L. Fuentes were arrested after law enforcement officials tracked them down using phone records and GPS technology.

The three men are in their late thirties and are being charged with money laundering and transporting stolen goods, according to the Lancaster County Sherriff's Office news release. Law enforcement officials found three stolen trailers and over half a million dollars worth of ill-gotten goods when they apprehended the alleged meat thieves. However, not all of the heisted meat has been recovered, and the investigation is listed as ongoing, meaning more arrests may be pending.

"We haven't nailed down the exact details on where all the meat stole ended up yet," Captain Michael Peschong of the Lancaster County Sherriff's Office told The Washington Post.