A quick trip to Enfield back in March 2010 for Cuban brothers Amaury Villa and Amed Villa has not ended the way they'd hoped.
The men were arrested and charged by federal authorities Thursday morning with participation in what law enforcement officials are calling the state's largest drug heist—the theft of $80 million worth of pharmaceutical drugs from the Eli Lilly Co. distribution center in an Enfield industrial park.
According to law enforcement officials, the Enfield incident was the largest such theft in history in Connecticut and the national pharmaceutical industry.
Amaury, 37, and Amed, 46, traveled to Connecticut via New York where they allegedly purchased tools at a Flushing, N.Y., Home Depot that they used to cut a hole in the warehouse roof and disable the security system, according to the U.S, Attorney's Office.
The day before the burglary Amaury, and possibly Amed, checked into a Windsor hotel, where Amaury stayed two months before, according to law enforcement officials. They said Amaury checked out of the hotel later in the morning the day of the theft.
Federal officials alleged that Amed Villa "touched a water bottle that had been stored within the warehouse and left that bottle inside the warehouse after he departed."
“The charges announced today are the result of a sustained and thorough investigation by the FBI and the Enfield Police Department,” U.S. Attorney David Fein said in a news release. "A prolific cargo theft ring has been dismantled.”
Eli Lilly's response
Eli Lilly officials applauded the apprehension of the two suspects and the recovery of the stolen pharmaceuticals.
Lilly plans to destroy the products when they are no longer needed as evidence, a press release said. The company has strengthed security at its facilities and pharmaceutical transportation, according to the release.
Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said the theft is the biggest investigation in which Enfield police have taken part. Because it is an ongoing investigation, Sferrazza declined to say how many Enfield officers have been involved.
“Obviously at the time we realized the magnitude of the case,” Sferrazza said. “It became a priority for us.”
The investigation into the Enfield incident, which was led by the FBI in New Haven and the Enfield Police Department, with the assistance of several other United States Attorney’s Offices and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, was part of a greater national investigation into large-scale thefts of pharmaceuticals and other products, the release said.
As a result of these investigations, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida announced Thursday the unsealing of an indictment charging 11 individuals, including Amaury Villa, with various offenses related to the possession and sale of stolen products, including pharmaceuticals stolen from the Eli Lilly warehouse in March 2010.
One count of the Southern District of Florida indictment charges Amaury Villa with possessing 4,654 boxes of the pharmaceuticals stolen from the Enfield facility, including Zyprexa, Cymbalta, Prozac, Gemzar and other medicines.
As part of the investigation in the Southern District of Florida, on Oct. 14, 2011, a search of a storage facility in Florida recovered pharmaceuticals that had been stolen from the Enfield warehouse.
The Enfield piece of the puzzle
U.S. Attorney Fein said that the Enfield investigation is ongoing and is being investigated by the FBI and the Enfield Police Department. Asst. US Attorney Anastasia E. King is prosecuting the case.
For more than two years, Eli Lilly cooperated with law enforcement authorities, the company said in a news release.
The Enfield Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice prosecutors in New Haven, Newark, and Miami, and the Miami Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force all worked in the overall investigation.
According to the Hartford Courant, the March 14, 2010 theft was one of the largest of several burglaries that occurred at around the same time.
At the time, Lilly officials said that they would work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. They also said that because of the strict regulation of pharmaceuticals in the country it would be “extremely difficult for stolen product to make it to patients through legitimate channels.”
Examples of the drugs taken include Cymbalta and Prozac.
Editor's note: This article Thursday by Enfield Patch.