NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Two brothers from Florida were charged Thursday in the theft of about $80 million in prescription drugs from a Connecticut warehouse in 2010.
The thieves broke into the Enfield warehouse of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. by scaling an exterior wall and cutting a hole in the roof of the warehouse. They used ropes to lower themselves to the floor and disabled alarms before using a forklift to load pallets of drugs into a getaway vehicle.
"As far as we know, this brazen crime was the biggest theft in Connecticut history and in the history of the pharmaceutical industry countrywide," said Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein.
Amaury Villa, 37, and his 46-year-old brother, Amed Villa, both citizens of Cuba residing in Miami, Fla., were arrested Thursday in Florida on federal theft and conspiracy charges related to their alleged participation in the theft.
Court records did not list attorneys for the Villa brothers in Florida or Connecticut.
The stolen drugs, which included antidepressants, antipsychotics and a chemotherapy drug used to treat lung cancer, were recovered last year from a storage facility in Florida, Fein said.
Authorities say in January 2010, Amaury Villa flew from Miami to LaGuardia Airport, where he rented a car and drove to Connecticut and checked into a hotel in Windsor. The following day, Eli Lilly surveillance video captured an individual looking through the front door of the warehouse in Enfield. Amaury Villa's rental car was returned the next day at LaGuardia, and he flew back to Miami, prosecutors said.
In February 2010, an associate of Amaury's received an email that contained lease agreements for two tractor-trailer trucks to be leased to a company that lists Amaury Villa as its registered agent, prosecutors said.
The day before the burglary, two individuals bought tools at a Home Depot in New York, authorities said. Amaury Villa flew that same day from Miami to LaGuardia, rented a car and checked into a hotel in Connecticut, prosecutors said.
On the night of March 13, 2010, thieves using the tools bought at Home Depot cut a hole in the roof of the warehouse and disabled part of the alarm system, authorities said.
Over the next five hours, Amed Villa and others used a forklift inside the warehouse to load numerous boxes of pharmaceuticals into a tractor trailer, authorities said.
Amed Villa touched a water bottle that had been stored within the warehouse and left the bottle inside the warehouse when he fled, prosecutors said.
The tractor-trailer left Eli Lilly at about 3:40 a.m. on March 14. Later that morning, Amaury Villa checked out of his hotel room, and his rental car passed through a bridge in New York that morning, prosecutors said. A day later, he flew from New York to Miami, prosecutors said
Amaury and Amed Villa are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft from an interstate shipment, which carries a maximum prison term of five years, and four counts of theft from an interstate shipment, each of which carries a prison term of up to 10 years.
Amed Villa is also charged with the theft of more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes valued at more than $8 million from a warehouse in Illinois in 2010. Amaury Villa and two others charged in Miami are accused of attempting to sell the drugs stolen from Eli Lilly.
The company applauded authorities for the arrests and the recovery of the pharmaceuticals.
"For more than two years, Lilly has cooperated with this criminal investigation - providing important information to federal and local authorities to help piece together the details of the theft," said Maria Crowe, president, manufacturing operations for Eli Lilly and Company.
The Enfield Police Chief spoke to News 8's Bob Wilson about the continuing investigation into the heist.
"It is ongoing, and we are happy with the arrests," said Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza.
The company said it has strengthened security for its facilities and transporting prescription drugs and formed a coalition with other pharmaceutical companies to protect patients from risks posed by stolen and inappropriately handled medical products.
"If you go over there now it is all cameras and stuff," said Cliff Roy of Enfield.
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