Rail Theft Ring Charged in California

ICE, the federal immigration service, announced five indictments were handed up July 9 in Los Angeles by a federal grand jury, following June 24 arrests near Ludlow, Calif. Police from Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, along with sheriffs’ departments and the California Highway Patrol, were involved.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced five men were charged July 9 in indictments handed up by a federal grand jury for a series of thefts from railroad freight cars. The men were arrested June 25 near Ludlow, Calif., after allegedly unloading 45 flat-screen 3D televisions from an eastbound railcar parked temporarily on a siding, completing a two-month investigation by ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the Union Pacific Railroad Police, with assistance from sheriffs' departments in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Police, and the California Highway Patrol.

"Not only did this theft scheme result in significant property losses, but given the tactics often employed by rings like this, there could also be serious safety issues," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "We know of documented cases of rail cargo theft involving BNSF trains in neighboring Arizona and New Mexico where thieves actually cut the air hoses on the train's brakes so they could stop it and steal merchandise."

The defendants are Leo Meza-Cruz, 41; Filemon Rios-Ramos, 42; Hector Bernal Anaya, 25; and Jesus Reyes Galvez, 38, all of Los Angeles. The fifth defendant, Eric Lopez, 41, is from Pomona, Calif. They are charged with conspiracy, theft of interstate commerce, receipt of stolen property from interstate commerce, and breaking and entering a carrier facility. Rios-Ramos, Meza-Cruz, and Lopez are scheduled to be arraigned July 19, and the other two will be arraigned Aug. 2, according to ICE. Union Pacific operates a toll-free tip line to report suspicious or criminal activity involving the rail industry at 1-888-UPRR-COP.

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