While current sanctions prohibit the shipment of U.S. goods to Venezuela, the NBC 6 Investigators found luxury rental vehicles that were stolen in South Florida found their way to the South American country.
NBC 6 obtained exclusive surveillance video from Sep.12, 2019 that shows a man renting a luxury SUV at Miami International Airport.
“He showed up asking for a big SUV for his family and he rented for 12 days, you know, it’s a long time,” Ricardo Alvarez said. “From Sep.12 to the 24 for like a $1,000, plus a $500 deposit. He had a passport from Venezuela, a driver’s license from Venezuela.”
Alvarez, who is the president and owner of Family Auto Rental, said Cesar Montero rented a white YUKON for 12 days, but he didn’t return it.
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According to Alvarez, the day the SUV was rented, the vehicle’s GPS showed it went from the airport directly to a warehouse area in Doral, where Miami-Dade Police detectives were able to get surveillance video showing the car parking next to a black Expedition that Alvarez said Montero rented from another company and didn’t return either.
“As we can see from the video, the gentleman got there around 6:30 p.m., half an hour after he rented the vehicle,” Alvarez said.
Surveillance video then shows Montero interacting with other individuals from one of the warehouses during the day. When night falls, the video shows a flatbed truck being used to load the two vehicles onto a shipping container.
The NBC 6 Investigators get results
“They took off the license plates,” Alvarez said. “And the next day the containers were taken, what we know of is Port Everglades, and from Port Everglades, they were sent to Venezuela.”
While he was doing his own investigation, Alvarez contacted the company that installs GPS devices on his rental cars and discovered one of the tracking devices on the vehicle had been deactivated but he said the luxury car had another GPS that is kept dormant to avoid detection.
“So we awake the GPS and that’s how we are able to get the connection of the GPS unit,” said Loranz Emachah, the president of VoltSwitch GPS. “So right now we see the car. It’s in the other country. They took it from Miami all the way to Venezuela, South America. It’s in Puerto Cabello, that’s the name of the city.”
With those coordinates, our correspondents in Venezuela were able to track the vehicles’ location to a highly guarded compound in the city of Puerto Cabello.
An aerial view confirmed what the GPS showed, the YUKON and Expedition were at the location along with other luxury SUVs.
An arrest warrant was issued for Montero and a year later, he was picked up at Fort Lauderdale International Airport and charged with four counts of failing to return rental vehicles and one of organized fraud.
“It's great. I mean it’s like some justice will be done hopefully,” Alvarez said.
Montero still hasn’t made a court appearance or entered a plea. He’s being held without bond and was ordered to surrender his passport.
As for Alvarez, he told NBC 6 he hasn’t been able to recover his stolen SUV and because his insurance doesn’t cover him when a client steals a car, he’s still sending monthly payments for a vehicle he doesn’t have. He said it’s been a big financial blow for his small business.