South Florida Resident Pleads Guilty to $90 Million Interstate Shipment Theft

DNA evidence and power tools assisted federal authorities in linking Amed Villa who was charged with his participation in a theft that has been termed the biggest in the State of Connecticut’s history. Mr. Villa is a Cuban National who presently lives in Miami, Florida
Villa was arrested in Florida last May; charged with theft and conspiracy for his role in a related heist.

An indictment states that on January 24, 2010, Mr. Villa seized more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes, from a warehouse which was estimated to be worth more than $8 million. The warehouse was operated by Federal Warehouse in Tazewell County, Illinois. But apparently, Mr. Villa’s cravings were not satisfied with a meager $8 million heist.

The March 2010 robbery of an Eli Lilly warehouse located in Enfield, Connecticut, in close proximity to a residential shopping mall yielded a bounty of approximately $90 million in stolen pharmaceuticals to Mr. Villa along with his brother Amaury and their affiliated cohorts in crime. The prescription drugs that were stolen included antidepressants, including Prozac and Cymbalta, the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, as well as Gemzar, a chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of lung cancer, according to this latest indictment. The drugs were recovered from a Doral, Florida storage facility in October 2011.

The targeted building in Connecticut, which is normally closed on weekends, had no security staff or even a protective perimeter fence to guard the substantial inventory of pharmaceuticals that were held there pending shipment. However, there was a surveillance camera that picked up the ill-defined image of two men who drove up to the loading dock in a tractor-trailer, then got out of the vehicle and made their way to the exterior of the main office where they seemingly glanced through the windows, apparently checking if there was anyone on premises.

“It appears as a very sophisticated, well-planned criminal action,” said Ed Sagebiel, a spokesman for Eli Lilly. He said the monetary figure represented the wholesale value of the stolen pills.

The actual robbery played out like an elaborate scene from the movie “Mission Impossible”.

After months of reconnaissance of the warehouse, on the evening of March 13, 2010, using a ladder, the brothers scaled the walls of the facility and then using power tools, cut a hole in the inadequately reinforced roof to gain access. Using ropes to descend into the building they were able to rappel down and disable the alarm system. Once inside the building, using available forklifts, they loaded pallets containing the drugs into waiting semi-trucks stationed outside the building at the loading docks, over the next five hours. This is where their co-conspirators were waiting, primed to drive down to Florida where the stolen product was planned to be stored and then sold.

But as shrewd as the two brothers and their co-conspirators seemed to be, law enforcement documents demonstrate that they left an ample trail of evidence behind.

When the Enfield, Connecticut Police arrived at the crime scene they came across DNA evidence that traced back to a previous warehouse robbery that took place in Illinois. That warehouse job fit the same modus operandi as the Eli Lilly break-in. In both cases, a hole was cut through the roof and the security system was disabled. Analysis of a water bottle that was recovered from the floor inside the warehouse of the Illinois theft matched the DNA profile which was consistent with the sample which was found in Enfield; both of Amed Villa.

The same DNA also matched that of an individual’s that was found on a coffee cup from a GlaxoSmithKline warehouse break-in in Chesterfield, Virginia, the scene of an earlier $6 million pharmaceutical heist.

Similarly lying in plain view was an assortment of several hand tools and a variety of power tools. In the Connecticut robbery the tools were “Husky” brand which are sold solely at Home Depot outlets, leading investigators to speculate if everything may have possibly been purchased in the same sale in regard to the Lily theft. Law enforcement then began a search of Home Depot’s computer records to see if they could connect the assortment of eight implements to the ones recovered in the Lily break-in, and see if the tools in question had ever been sold together at one of their stores.

The results quickly hit pay dirt.

In the past year that particular combination had only occurred one time, at a store located in Flushing, N.Y at 1:13 p.m. just one day before the Lily theft took place.

Store surveillance cameras showed two men appearing to be the Villa brothers on the checkout line and then paying at the register for the $757 purchase in cash. They were again viewed on video in the parking lot as they placed the purchased articles into the back of a rented SUV. The SUV was identified as an Infiniti QX56 which was found to have been rented by Amaury Villa.

On May 03, 2012 Amaury Villa was charged in an 18-count indictment along with eleven other South Florida men for their connection in the Connecticut burglary. He pleaded not guilty to this particular charge after pleading guilty the previous year to possessing drugs stolen from the warehouse in Florida. He has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

On July 1, his brother Amed pleaded guilty to the $8 million cigarette robbery as well as the Connecticut Warehouse break-in; to the charges of two counts of theft from an interstate shipment and one count of conspiracy to commit theft from an interstate shipment. When sentenced, Amed Villa faces a penalty of not more than 25 years in federal prison.

“Today’s guilty plea is the result of a most exhaustive and far-reaching investigation, highlighted by exemplary teamwork among our federal, state and local partners,” commented Kimberly K. Mertz, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the investigation. “Complex investigations involving multiple agencies and jurisdictions are often difficult because they require an especially organized and coordinated effort in order to bring those responsible for crimes to justice. The tremendous investigative and prosecutive effort in this matter is evident by Villa’s guilty plea.”

Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Deirdre M. Daly and Ms. Mertz made the announcement.


The terminology “interstate shipment” includes shipments between one State, Territory, and another State, Territory, encompassing all fifty States of the United States and the District of Columbia. A conviction of theft from an interstate shipment or conspiracy to commit theft from an interstate shipment can be extremely harsh. It is a federal crime prosecuted in federal court.

If you, a friend or loved one is charged with allegations regarding these types of offences it is critical to contact a qualified defense attorney with expertise in federal law.

Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.