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Arrests made in $80M Lilly prescription drug heist

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Authorities have made arrests in the 2010 theft of about $80 million in Eli Lilly and Co. prescription drugs from a Connecticut warehouse, a robbery described as one of the biggest pharmaceutical heists in history, the U.S. attorney's office said Thursday.

Two Cuban brothers were arrested and charged with helping steal the pharmaceuticals, including Prozac and Zyprexa.

Amaury Villa, 37 and Amed Villa were arrested Thursday in Florida on charges of theft and conspiracy, U.S. Attorney David B. Fein in Hartford said.

“We believe that a prolific cargo theft ring has been dismantled,” Fein said.

The thieves broke into the Enfield warehouse of Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Lilly in March 2010 and stole enough pills to fill a tractor-trailer. The drugs were believed to be destined for the black market, perhaps overseas.

After cutting a hole in the roof of the industrial park warehouse, they lowered themselves to the floor, disabled the alarms and spent at least an hour loading pallets of antidepressants and other drugs into a vehicle at the loading dock, authorities said. The company said the stolen drugs included the antidepressants Prozac and Cymbalta, and the antipsychotic Zyprexa.

In the days after the heist, the drug maker asked the public for help in spotting the stolen pills and warned consumers to watch for tampering that might indicate products were stolen. Local police interviewed company workers and checked area hotels to try to identify suspects, but there was little word on progress of the investigation until now.

Experts have said the heist shared many traits with warehouse thefts of pharmaceuticals last year near Richmond, Va.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Olive Branch, Miss. Those thieves also cut through ceilings and sometimes used trapeze-style rigging to get inside and disable the main and backup alarms. In some cases, they sprayed dark paint on the lenses of security cameras; in others, they stole disks in the security recording devices.

"The pharmaceuticals taken from Lilly's warehouse have been successfully recovered, preventing them from entering pharmaceutical distribution channels," Lilly said Thursday in a prepared statement. "Lilly plans to destroy the products when they are no longer needed as evidence."

 

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