Two suspects are facing dozens of serious charges in connection with an organized cargo theft operation that targeted multiple businesses and resulted in the theft of more than $700K worth of wooden pallets and 25 semi trailers, according to authorities in Florida.
Bobby John Herrera, Jr., 45, and Nicholas Nigel Howard, 36, are facing a combined total of 67 felony charges, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).
Herrera is the owner of pallet supply company JCI Pallet, located in Plant City, Florida.
PCSO began investigating the cargo theft ring in late July 2021 following 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.
Police were able to connect Herrera with the theft/burglary of three semi trailers filled with pallets.
Security video from both both Saddle Creek Logistics and the Walmart Distribution Center showed Herrera driving his company’s 2015 Freightliner onto the facilities and illegally removing semi-truck trailers filled with wooden pallets waiting to be delivered to other distribution centers and businesses. Police say that Herrera was able to circumvent security procedures at the distribution centers to steal the trailers and their contents.
When PCSO detectives went to the JCI Pallet location and met with Herrera to show him the security footage, he reportedly told police, “That looks like me.”
Herrera was arrested in September but was later released on a $4000 bond.
As the investigation continued, police 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 — Saddle Creek Logistics, Walmart, 48Forty Solutions, and Monison Pallets.
During the months of May, June, and July of 2021, police say that Herrera and Howard 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.
Police were able to track the stolen trailers to JCI Pallet, where they were emptied before being returned or abandoned. All of the stolen trailers were recovered.
PCSO additionally said that business in Alabama, Smith and Company, hired Herrera to deliver pallets to Saddle Creek Logistical Solutions. Herrera never delivered the product and instead submitted a fraudulently signed bill of ladings 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 PCSO Sheriff Grady Judd.
Charges against Herrera include:
- 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)
Charges agains Howard include:
- 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)