A 26-pound gold bar stolen in a still-unsolved North Carolina truck heist wound its way into the hands of a Miami pawn shop owner, and the man who tried to sell it there was sentenced Tuesday to more than three years in prison.
Miguel Bover, 49, was not involved in the March 1 robbery of 275 pounds of gold bars worth $4.8 million from a truck along Interstate 95 in North Carolina. But Bover admitted that he was approached weeks later by people he knew to sell one of the six gold bars they had, and he decided to enlist the Miami-area pawnbroker, identified in court documents only by the initials G.M.
Bover pleaded guilty in July to an attempted extortion charge after his cellphone was used to make threats when the gold sale fell through. Bover did not make the threats himself but knows who did and fears for his family's safety, he said in court.
"I do not know what is going to happen to them. I fear for them,'' Bover said. "These are very dangerous people.''
The shipment of gold bars aboard a TransValue Inc. truck was intercepted by three armed thieves on its way from Republic Metals near Miami to Bridgewater, Massachusetts, according to court documents. At first claiming in Spanish they were police officers, the men bound the hands of the driver and another employee with plastic ties, forced them into the woods and sped off with the gold in a white van. No one was hurt.
Miami FBI spokesman Mike Leverock said the investigation is ongoing, but so far only Bover has been charged and only the one gold bar has been recovered.
Before Bover's April arrest, the pawnbroker failed to sell the gold bar to the metals refinery when employees there became suspicious. The FBI was summoned, and as agents arrived the pawnbroker returned with a piece of the gold bar that had been sawed off the main portion. The FBI confiscated all the gold, which bore distinctive Republic Metals identifying markings, and the shop owner agreed to cooperate.
Meanwhile, according to Bover and an FBI affidavit, the people who originally had the gold bar wanted payment or its return. Bover agreed to allow the men to use his cellphone to send a series of threatening text messages to the pawnshop owner. Those messages later led to Bover's arrest.
Bover, who has a previous fraud conviction, said he was tempted to get involved because he would be able to provide a college education for his son with money he was promised for the sale. But U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said that wasn't good enough.
"It's an excuse, a reason, but not a justification,'' Bloom said in handing out the sentence. "You knew these messages involved threats of harm. The court cannot ignore that.''