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Undercover Operation Cracks Drug Theft Ring


Yesterday, federals officials announced the arrest of nearly two dozen men for the theft of tens of millions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals in three states.

From member station WSHU in Connecticut, Craig LeMoult reports one of those burglaries was so huge it changed the way companies handle security.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Two brothers were arrested and charged, Thursday, with cutting a hole in the roof of an Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut in March of 2010. They allegedly made off with between $70 and $80 million worth of pharmaceuticals, including anti-depressant and chemotherapy medications.

Here's U.S. Attorney David Fein.

DAVID FEIN: As far as we know this brazen crime was the biggest theft in Connecticut history and in the history of the pharmaceutical industry countrywide.

LEMOULT: Stolen drugs like these are sold overseas and can also be illegally sold to American distributors. These drugs were recovered by authorities. The break in was noticed by the industry.

Dan Burges collects data on cargo thefts for FreightWatch International, a security firm that helps companies avoid this kind of thing. He says since the Eli Lilly incident, the number of pharmaceutical thefts has gone down.

DAN BURGES: Such a huge loss that was, you know, very, very public and very, very well-known I think really generated some motivation in a lot of companies to kind of close the door, you know, before the horses got out, so to speak.

LEMOULT: Eli Lilly confirms they've taken additional steps since then to secure their cargo. Burges says while the number of pharmaceutical cargo thefts was down last year, the overall the number of cargo thefts was up eight percent.

For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult, in Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.