Hillsborough deputies are searching for a woman who they say was part of a group of suspects who used two semi trailers to steal about $1.6 million worth of liquor from a Gibsonton warehouse.
Detectives have issued an arrest warrant for Ruth Melly Cardero, 54, for her part in the July heist, according to a news release issued Friday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. A sheriff’s office spokesperson did not immediately have information on what charges Cardero faces.
Detectives arrested another suspect days after the liquor was stolen. Miguel Angel Artiles Rivas, 33, of Ruskin was arrested on July 14 on charges of burglary with damage of $1,000 or more and grand theft of $100,000 or more, records show.
According to Rivas’ arrest affidavit, he was among the suspects who illegally entered the Republic National Distributing Co., at 13040 Bay Drive, shortly after 6 a.m. on July 8 and used the company’s forklifts to load pallets containing roughly $1.6 million worth of liquor into semi trailers.
During the course of the burglary, more than $30,000 worth of alcohol on the pallets was damaged or destroyed, the affidavit states.
Surveillance video from a neighboring business showed the tractor trailers, one red and one white, arriving and leaving that morning. Later that day, investigators obtained surveillance video showing the red semi entering Estrada’s Truck and Auto on U.S. 301 in Wimauma.
Rivas was located on July 14 driving the same red semi into Estrada’s. Rivas told investigators the semi was his, and data from his cellphone put him in the area of the distribution center at the time of the theft, the affidavit states.
Rivas was released on July 16 after posting $125,000 bail, records show. Jail records list his occupation as “truck driver.”
Rivas has pleaded not guilty, court records show. An attorney listed for him did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
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According to the sheriff’s office news release, authorities soon after the theft seized a Kenworth semi-cab, two Wabash trailers and a Kia Stinger used in the heist.
Working with the Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, Hillsborough detectives found a storage facility in Hialeah used to hold the pilfered booze and were able to return more than $1.5 million worth of it to the owner.
Photos released by the sheriff’s office show several pallets of 1800 brand tequila were among the stolen goods.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said in the news release that investigators “anticipate further arrests.”
The sheriff’s office asked anyone with information on the case or the whereabouts of Cardero to call 813-247-8200.