TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A San Antonio man and his wife have been ordered to pay more than one million dollars in restitution, for their part in a massive ‘tire theft ring’ that targeted some businesses here in East Texas.
Through undercover operations, agents were able to break a ring that stole tires from businesses across Louisiana and East Texas and then selling them in Mexico. The tire thefts took place around 2 years ago in East Texas, thought to be part of a massive theft ring state-wide. The scope of the operation was immense. Over a 15-year period from Louisiana to Texas, over 100 locations were targeted.
Workers at Longview tire operations like 'Bad Boys' say tires are a common target.
“People just steal them and they can flip them. They can steal a tire worth 400 dollars a sell it for 200 dollars,” said worker Brian Garduno.
A theft at a south Longview business was key in prosecuting the suspects.
34-year-old Joel Vargas and 39-year-old Angelica Vargas were found guilty by a jury of federal violations following a five-day trial in March 2019. Two others were also convicted.
Undercover officers captured the pair when over $38,000 in tires were stolen during a burglary of a tire and service center in Beaumont, Texas.
The investigation of the burglary led to the Vargas couple being found to be part of a multi-participant conspiracy, targeting commercial tire businesses, resulting in the theft, trafficking and sale of commercial tires, specifically 18-wheeler truck tires.
And local experts know why.
"18-wheeler tires, those are the most expensive tires of all. It depends on the tire, but they're really expensive tires," Garduno says.
Over a 15-year period, the conspiracy targeted over 100 locations , forcing entry, disabling surveillance equipment, then stealing tires, and transporting them in stolen rental van vehicles.
Joel Vargas was also found guilty of threatening a trial witness .Joel Vargas was sentenced to nineteen and a half years in federal prison. Angelica Vargas was sentenced to five years in prison.
Both have been ordered to pay more than a million dollars in restitution
In all, seven individuals were convicted as part of the investigation.