Two Florida men have been charged in an organized cargo theft that duped businesses out of nearly $1,000,000 in stolen pallets and semi-trailers.
Polk County Sherrif’s Office detectives charged 45-year-old Bobby John Herrera, Jr. from West Palm Beach and 36-year-old Nicholas Nigel Howard of Opa Locka with a combined 67 felonies after they engaged in an organized cargo theft conspiracy where 5 businesses were defrauded and about $704,487 of wooden pallets and 25 semi-trailers were stolen.
In late July 2021, PCSO detectives began investigating a reported theft of seven semi-trailers from two different distribution centers – Saddle Creek Logistical Services in Auburndale and the Walmart Distribution Center in Winter Haven – that contained a large quantity of wooden pallets.
During the initial investigation, detectives were able to identify three semi-trucks with trailers filled with pallets had been either stolen or burglarized by Herrera. Herrera is the owner of JCI Pallet in Plant City.
Security footage obtained by detectives from both Saddle Creek Logistics and the Walmart Distribution Center showed a series of thefts where Herrera drove his company’s 2015 Freightliner semi-truck onto the facilities and illegally removing semi-truck trailers filled with wooden pallets waiting to be delivered to other distribution centers and businesses. Herrera was able to circumvent security procedures at the distribution centers to steal the semi-trailers and their contents.
PCSO detectives traveled to JCI Pallet and met with Herrera. When detectives showed him one of the security videos, Herrera said, “That looks like me.”
Herrera was initially arrested in September with the assistance of the Plant City Police Department and transported to the Hillsborough County Jail where he was later released on a $4000 bond.
As the investigation continued, detectives learned that Howard, the on-site manager of JCI Pallet assisted Herrera in removing stolen trailers filled with pallets from two different distribution centers, affecting four different companies. Over the months of May, June, and July of 2021, the two men planned and coordinated the theft of 25 semi-trailers which contained almost 5,000 wooden pallets.
The stolen trailers and pallets combined are worth approximately $935,663. The victims of Herrara’s and Howard’s organized cargo theft conspiracy were Saddle Creek Logistics, Walmart, 48Forty Solutions, and Monison Pallets.
Detectives tracked the stolen trailers filled with wooden pallets to JCI Pallet where they were emptied before being returned or abandoned without the stolen cargo. Two of the trailers stolen by Herrera were determined to be empty when they were stolen from the distribution centers. All of the stolen trailers were eventually recovered.
Additionally, a business in Alabama, Smith and Company, had hired Herrera to deliver pallets to Saddle Creek Logistical Solutions. Herrera never delivered the product. Instead, he submitted a fraudulently signed bill of ladings (detailed shipment of goods delivered) and invoices for pallets never delivered.
“My detectives, in partnership with the Plant City Police Department, did an outstanding job investigating this organized crime enterprise. This type of theft negatively impacts the consumer when business have to raise costs to account for this type of loss. We will work hard to make sure Herrera and Howard are held accountable for these cargo thefts. They won’t have the opportunity to steal while they are in prison, ” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Bobby John Herrera, Jr. was again arrested in Plant City and transported to the Hillsborough County Jail with additional Polk County charges for:
- Burglary of Occupied Structure (F2) (13 Counts)
- Burglary of Unoccupied Conveyance (F3) (15 Counts)
- Forgery (F2) (2 Counts)
- Grand Theft $100,000 or More (F1)
- Grand Theft (F2)
- Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle (F3) (19 counts)
- Theft of Cargo in Stream of Commerce (F3)
- Use of a 2-way Device to Commit a Felony (F3)
- Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft (F2)
Herrera’s previous criminal history includes out of state charges from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico for credit card abuse, issuing bad checks, fraud, money laundering, theft, illegal control of enterprise, forgery, conspiracy, tampering with evidence, burglary of an automobile, and violation of probation.
Nicholas Nigel Howard was arrested in Opa Locka and transported to the Miami-Dade County Jail with Polk County charges for:
- Burglary of Occupied Structure (F3) (3 Counts)
- Grand Theft Motor Vehicle (F3) (4 Counts)
- Grand Theft (F2)
- Burglary of Unoccupied Conveyance (F3) (3 Counts)
- Use of 2-way Communication Device (F3)
- Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft (F3)
Howard’s previous criminal history includes charges of fraud, trespassing, resisting a law enforcement officer, possession of marijuana, violation of probation, and failure to appear.
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