Cigarette theft totals more than half a million dollars
by Noel Brennan
WACO - A Houston man is facing charges in connection to the theft of more than half a million dollars worth of cigarettes from a Waco wholesale business.
Aaron Sunmer Miller, 32, is currently behind bars in the McLennan County Jail. According to Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton, Miller is one of five crooks who broke into A-Z Wholesale in the 3600 block of Interstate 35 on November 11, 2011. Detectives are still looking for four other men involved in the heist.
"They knew what they were trying to do," explained Shiva Kumar, assistant manager at A-Z Wholesale. Kumar was one of the first to come across the mess the thieves left behind.
"There were cigarettes scattered all over," Kumar described. "Things were broken. They went behind the counter, they broke a cash register. They took all the money from the cash registers."
The crooks then loaded up hundreds of cases of Newport, Marlboro and other brand-name cigarettes onto carts. They wheeled them outside and packed them into a company van and drove off. Police later recovered the stolen van outside a truck stop in Hewitt the following morning. The van was empty, save for a pallet, a dolly and pieces of plastic wrap. More than 15 thousand cartons of cigarettes were gone.
"They're not cheap per carton, but when you start stealing cases of them, the value obviously adds up pretty quickly," said Sgt. Swanton. Swanton said the theft at A-Z Wholesale was the largest in recent memory, and he has a pretty good idea of the motive behind the crime.
"My guess is that [the thieves] were most likely selling [cigarettes] on the black market and not having to worry about tax stamps," Swanton said.
The first break in the case came on Tuesday with the arrest of Aaron Sunmer Miller. According to Waco Police records, DNA evidence collected from the stolen van linked Miller to the theft.
According to Sgt. Swanton, Miller was already being held in the Harris County jail for revocation of parole for a previous crime.
Miller was transported to McLennan County on Tuesday where he has since been charged with Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.
His four partners are still on the loose, and after beefing up security at A-Z Wholesale, Shiva Kumar is making sure they don't target him again.
"They cannot get in. I guarantee you," Kumar said.
All five suspects were caught on surveillance video from A-Z Wholesale, but Waco PD detectives have been unable to identify them. Police hope Aaron Miller will lead them to his partners in crime.
Saturday, May 25 2013 12:04 AM EDT2013-05-25 04:04:15 GMT
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