MIAMI, June 7 An airline cargo handler and a
pawn shop owner have been arrested in connection with the theft
of $625,000 in gold bars from Miami International Airport,
officials said on Friday.
Prosecutors charged Marco Cruz, a 47-year-old Miami man who
works as a cargo clerk at the airport, with stealing a box of
six gold bars last month that arrived as cargo on an American
Airlines flight from Ecuador.
The cargo was unloaded but a box containing the gold
vanished after apparently being loaded onto a motorized luggage
When cargo workers noticed the box was missing, they alerted
Ramses Llufrio, a 38-year-old pawn shop owner, was charged
with receiving the gold bars knowing they had been stolen, the
U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said in a statement. Llufrio
purchased five gold bars from Cruz for $250,000, it said.
As part of its investigation into the heist, officials
interviewed airline employees including Cruz, who initially
denied any involvement.
He later agreed to allow investigators to search his home
and police found one of the bars and $200,000 in cash. He later
gave a law enforcement official the additional $50,000.
If convicted, the men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in
Miami International is a major trans-shipment point for
large quantities of gold produced in South America.
Gold is Miami's No. 1 import valued at almost $8 billion
last year, mostly from Mexico and Colombia and almost all
destined for Switzerland, according to World City, a Miami-based
publication that tracks trade data.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Bernard Orr)