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Violent heist at cargo depot near Port of L.A. the work of sophisticated gang, detectives say

December 1, 2010 |  7:43 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/images/2008/09/05/los_angeles_port.jpg

It began with a man posing as a lost driver asking for directions from a security guard outside a cargo depot in Wilmington.

Within seconds, the guard on duty Sunday night discovered it was a ruse, detectives said. As he stepped outside the cargo depot to give directions, two other men overpowered him and hit him in the face. They warned him they were armed and prepared to use their weapons.

A small fleet of big rigs pulled into the yard and with military precision began hauling three loaded trailers away from the depot near the Port of L.A.

“It appeared they were looking for specific trailers,” said Los Angeles Police Lt. John Pasquariello.

Investigators say the crime known as a “terminal robbery” is typically done by organized gangs and is one of the ways cargo thieves make off with merchandise valued at more than $10 billion annually nationwide. The Los Angeles area has long been an epicenter of cargo crime with the LAPD, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol all operating special teams of investigators to combat it.

Click for an interactive map of crime in Wilmington In Sunday night’s heist at 1000 Farragut Ave., the assailants hustled the security guard and another employee into an office, where they bound and gagged them. With the employees secured, several big rigs began hooking up trailers.

Detectives said the thieves stole a white Freightliner with a Tennessee license plate of T716959, a blue '90s Peterbilt with a Maine license plate 2332123, and a green '90s Peterbilt with a Tennessee license plate of T950491.

They did not disclose the contents of the trailers.

Eventually the security guard and employee, one of them a woman, were discovered and taken to a Long Beach hospital with minor to moderate injuries.

Detectives said they are also looking for a big rig and two other trailers stolen earlier that day about 6 p.m. Thieves got away with a white Mack tractor with a California license plate number of 9E35712 and two additional trailers with Tennessee plates T771784 and U054162. It is unclear if the thefts were related to the robbery. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Commercial Crimes Division, Cargo Hijack Unit at (213) 485-2507.

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--Richard Winton

Photo: Cargo at the Port of Los Angeles. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Map: Shows crime reported in the 1000 block of Farragut Avenue on Sunday night. Source: Crime L.A.

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