Miami-Dade men steal $1.3 million in seafood by posing as supermarket buyer, FHP says

Three Miami-Dade County men stole more than $1 million worth of seafood from a Fort Lauderdale business by posing as a supermarket buyer, Florida authorities said.
Rene Hechevarria Echemend, 33, Ernesto Aguilera Baute, 36, and Jose Luis Batista Suarez, 40, now face seven counts of grand theft of cargo valued in excess of $50,000 and seven counts of property acquisition in excess of $5,000. as Broward County court records show.
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Jail, bail and attorney information was not available Sunday afternoon.
The $1.3 million theft began in late June when a man posing as Brian Gomez bought seafood from NETUNO, a Fort Lauderdale-based grocery importer, on behalf of a supermarket, according to their arrest reports. Orders were placed on June 21, June 30, July 14, July 27 and July 29, Florida Highway Patrol investigators said in the report.
After each order, Gomez was directed to pick up the seafood shipments at a warehouse in the Miami-Dade town of Medley, FHP reported. About 45 days after the initial purchase, police said, NETUNO employees began thinking something was wrong after they contacted the supermarket's corporate headquarters and were told Brian Gomez didn't work for them and that the email he used was fraudulent.
FHP's Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence said it learned of the illegal operation in early August and began surveillance around the Medley warehouse. At 9:35 am on August 4, investigators said they saw the truck and trailer used in the previous thefts backing up to one of the camp's bay doors.
Aguilera Baute, a Hialeah resident, signed the order's paperwork, the soldiers say, and left in the trailer truck with the seafood load with Hechevarria Echemend, who lives west of Miami Gardens. Cops say they followed the truck and a red Mustang pulling up behind it to 3255 Meridian Pkwy. in the Broward town of Weston. The driver of the Mustang, investigators say, was later identified as Batista Suarez, a Hialeah resident.
Nearly 15 minutes after the truck reversed into a manhole door at the Weston facility, police officers approached and arrested the three men without incident, the report said.
READ MORE: Florida woman caught with bottle of Jack Daniel's driving golf cart on I-95, says FHP
The investigation found that Aguilera Baute and Hechevarria Echemend defrauded NETUNO and were also responsible for five of the six cargo thefts totaling about $1.3 million in seafood, according to FHP. Batista Suarez took part in the seafood robbery totaling about $300,000 last week, and during those incidents all three used their cellphones to facilitate those thefts, FHP added.
An FHP spokeswoman declined to name the supermarket the men allegedly worked for, citing an open investigation. Her next court date was unknown as of Sunday afternoon.

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