Two employees of cargo handling company Alliance Ground International who worked at Los Angeles International Airport were arrested Tuesday morning on charges of stealing four gold bars that were part of a larger shipment going from Australia to New York.
Marlon Moody, 38, and Brian Benson, 35, both of South Los Angeles, were arrested by FBI agents and indicted on two counts of conspiracy and theft of interstate and foreign shipments, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. Alliance Ground International said in a statement to FreightWaves that one of its crews discovered the stolen cargo and supervisors reported it to Los Angeles Airport Police.
The Justice Department alleges the men took four gold bars from a shipment of 2,000 gold bars that arrived April 22 on a Singapore Airlines flight. The 1-kilogram bars were being shipped for Toronto Dominion Bank and were valued at a total of $112 million — or $56,000 each.
The gold bars were packed in 80 boxes and placed in multiple shipping containers. During a layover at LAX, the gold was offloaded by Alliance adjacent to the Singapore Airlines Cargo warehouse and handed over to Brink’s Global Services (NYSE: BCO) on the tarmac. The armored car company moved the large shipment to a temporary holding location outside the airport. An inventory that evening reportedly showed one box containing 25 gold bars was missing, according to the indictment and an airport source familiar with the investigation.
The source said Brink’s apparently miscounted the number of boxes when accepting the shipment.
“We don’t know how the box ended up away from the rest of the shipment,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said.
A message left with Brink’s was not returned before publication.
The indictment alleges that Moody found the missing box of gold bars near the Singapore Airlines cargo warehouse the following morning, placed it on a belt loader and drove the vehicle to a spot near the Korean Air cargo warehouse, where he removed four of the bars and hid them in his safety vest. Benson arrived to pick up Moody in a company van, during which time they reportedly exchanged text messages about the gold bars because other employees were in the van.
During the text exchange, Benson wrote, “That’s big $ lol” and “I need to take a closer look.”
He then drove the van to the Polar Air Cargo warehouse, which was operated at the time by Alliance Ground International. Moody and Benson, who were assigned to support the Singapore Airlines operation, then met for several minutes inside the Polar Air restroom. The two defendants later left the airport and went to a nearby parking lot, where Moody gave Benson one of the gold bars, the indictment said.
The lost box with the 21 remaining gold bars was discovered by other warehouse workers later in the day and authorities began an investigation.
Moody gave one gold bar to a relative “and directed the family member to exchange the gold bar for a vehicle and/or money,” according to the indictment. He then allegedly buried the remaining two gold bars in the backyard of his residence.
The FBI recovered all four gold bars about two weeks after they went missing from LAX.
Alliance said it immediately terminated the employees.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison if convicted.