Water Bottle Leads to Suspect in Biggest Drug Heist in History

Prosecutors say 11 defendants were involved in selling and distributing

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Investigators have arrested two brothers from Cuba in a mysterious $80 million drug caper that included an elaborate scheme complete with repelling rope and disabling the alarm system. FBI Special Agent in Charge John Gillies and U.S. Attorney David Fein talk about the case.

    Investigators have arrested two brothers from Cuba in a mysterious $80 million drug caper that included an elaborate scheme complete with repelling rope and disabling the alarm system.

    Amaury Villa, 37, and Amed Villa, 46, citizens of Cuba who have both been living in Miami, have been charged in connection with the largest pharmaceutical heist in U.S. history.

    A water bottle one of the brothers left behind at the scene apparently helped lead officials to the brothers, U.S. Attorney David Fein said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

    The brothers were arrested in Florida on Thursday, accused of participating in the thefts of Gemzar, a chemotherapy drug used to treat lung cancer; Zyprexa, a depressant and antipsychotic used to treat bipolar disorder; Prozac, Lilly's first billion-dollar drug and the company's top seller before it lost patent protection several years ago; and Cymbalta which is used to treat anxiety disorders.

    "As far as we know, this brazen crime is the biggest theft in Connecticut history, and in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, countrywide," Fein said.

    The arrests come amid a broader ongoing multistate investigation into cargo thefts.

    Amaury is among 11 people charged in Florida with possession and sale of drugs stolen from tractor-trailer cargo at truck stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Tennessee, as well as drugs stolen from a GlaxoSmothKline warehouse in Virginia, Fein said.

    The FBI said that in total 18 people in total face charges, 11 were charged in South Florida and seven in other districts in the U.S. All 18 were based in South Florida, the FBI said.

    "These individuals were the ringleaders. They were going across the country ripping off these warehouses and these trailer trucks and there was no stopping them in sight," said FBI Special Agent John Gillies.

    Willy Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, discussed the hazards to public health.

    "If they haven't been refrigerated, if they haven't been properly stored ... imagine having these medications that are to treat these serious ailments, and the consumer has no idea," he said.

    Ahmed has also been charged in Illinois in connection with the theft of 3,500 cases of cigarettes worth more than $8 million from a warehouse in Peoria, Illinois, federal officials said.

    Federal officials said the brothers staked out the Eli Lilly warehouse in January 2010. Amaury flew into LaGuardia, rented a car and drive to Windsor, where he was caught on surveillance looking into the Eli Lilly facility, Fein said. The next day, he returned to Miami.

    In February, 2010, one of Amaury's associates received an email with lease agreements with for two tractor-trailers, Fein said.

    On March 12, 2010, Amaury flew back to New York and checked into a hotel in Windsor.

    The break-in happened after 10 p.m. on March 13, 2010, as Enfield caught the edges of a nor'easter that battered the region with heavy rain and wind before dawn.

    Authorities said the thieves cut through the ceiling and rappelled inside and disarmed the alarms.

    Over the next five hours, Amed and others used a forklift inside the facility, lifted boxes and loaded them into a tractor-trailer, according to U.S. Attorney David Fein. At 3:40 a.m., they left the facility.

    Despite the elaborate efforts to skirt security, Amed touched a water bottle in the facility and left it there, federal authorities said.

    Federal authorities have not revealed whether they linked the bottle to Amed through a fingerprint, DNA or something else. That will come out in court.

    In addition to the left-behind water bottle, surveillance video picked up the brothers and there were documents linking the men to rental cars and leases.

    Amaury checked out of a hotel in Windsor that day. Days later, he returned to Miami, Fein said.

    On Oct. 14, 2011, authorities found about $80 million in pharmaceuticals in a storage facility in Doral, Florida. They had been stolen from Enfield, Fein said.

    An Florida indictment charges 11 people with possession and sale of narcotics, some of which were stolen in the Enfield heist, federal officials said. All or virtually all people believed to have been involved have been identified, Fein said.