HomeNewsDrug Gangs, Thieves Team Up for Violent Cargo Robberies in Rio
NEWS

Drug Gangs, Thieves Team Up for Violent Cargo Robberies in Rio

BRAZIL / 28 JUL 2021 BY MARK WILSON EN

A cargo-theft ring in Rio de Janeiro partnered with a drug gang to steal millions of dollars worth of goods, showing how criminal actors in Brazil come together to commit big heists.

During the past three years, the group’s gunmen committed dozens of brazen robberies throughout the city, hijacking trucks and raiding warehouses, Globo reported. Authorities estimated that the group ripped off 200 million Brazilian reais ($30 million) in goods since 2018.     

Violent thefts by the gang included a hold-up of a cargo terminal in Río’s Galeão International Airport to steal a load of cell phones and a raid on a supermarket distribution that left two security guards dead.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile

Police identified one of the ringleaders as Leonardo Santos Costa Falcão, “alias Léo GTA,” who was involved in a 2019 car theft that led to a shootout with police in which a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by a stray bullet. He was arrested on July 17 at a motel.

Falcão had last been seen on surveillance video that captured the highway robbery of 120,000 reais (about $23,000) in cigarettes. Wearing traffic vests, he and the other gunmen used a stolen trailer to take off with the cigarettes while lookouts shot at police.

Composed of some 80 criminals, the cargo-theft ring committed audacious, violent and cinematic-like heists, police official Hilton Alonso told Globo.

“They already have inside information to know what they want, usually cell phones. They already know the day when they have more of this load. Everything is organized and planned.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Powerful drug gangs in Rio bring key elements to these violent and sophisticated robberies.

The drug gangs provide firepower and control neighborhoods, providing places to hide from authorities and stash stolen goods. According to the police, four neighborhoods in Rio served as the bases for the cargo theft ring.

The drug gangs are also positioned to fence stolen goods, particularly alcohol, cigarettes and electronics, which are commonly sold on the black market. Because of their network, the drug gangs can also bribe warehouse and customs personnel for information about truck routes and valuable cargo loads.

The gangs earn a steady stream of cash from the robberies. According to police, 50 percent of the revenue from the heists goes to them.

Cargo theft continues to be a massive criminal problem in Brazil. An estimated $558 million a year is lost in stolen goods in Brazil.

SEE ALSO: Airport Heist Shows Growing Audacity of Brazil’s Cargo Thieves

The robberies are often audacious. In March of 2018, five men stole $5 million from a Lufthansa plane. In a separate attack, gunmen stole 720 kilograms of gold valued at $30 million from a São Paulo airport cargo terminal in broad daylight without firing a single shot.

The collaboration between drug traffickers and gangs involved in highway robberies extends to other parts of Latin America. In Mexico, cargo thieves operate on highways controlled by drug groups, robbing roughly 36 trucks every day.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 23 DEC 2021

A spree of illegal fishing occurred across Latin America this past year, much of it driven by competition for diminishing…

ARGENTINA / 8 DEC 2020

New details have emerged about the sophisticated criminal operations of a Red Command leader who once operated in the Argentina-Brazil…

BRAZIL / 19 JAN 2021

Authorities in Brazil have dismantled a criminal organization specialized in the cloning of debit cards to steal emergency aid and…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…