(WFRV) – An investigation revealed $9 million worth of meat was stolen across six states in a “highly sophisticated Organized Criminal Enterprise” targeting meat packaging plants, law enforcement officials in the Midwest said.

According to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office in Nebraska, the investigation started on June 27 after multiple semi-trailers and loads of frozen beef were stolen in the state. The initial investigation estimated the loss was around $1 million.

But the scope of the crimes turned out to be much larger. Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Omaha identified about 45 thefts that happened across six states since June 2021. Investigators said a “highly sophisticated” group of criminals out of Miami, Florida, were targeting beef and pork packaging plants.

The thefts happened in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, officials said. The estimated loss across all six states totaled $9 million.

On Thursday, three principal targets were identified and arrested. Three tractor-trailers with stolen merchandise valued at $550,000 were recovered.

The three people were identified by the sheriff’s office as:

  • 38-year-old Yoslany Leyva Del Sol
  • 37-year-old Ledier Machin Andino
  • 39-year-old Delvis Fuentes

All three are from the Miami area and were arrested for allegedly transporting stolen goods and money laundering.

No information was given on what would be done with the stolen meat. The sheriff’s office also said the investigation is still ongoing.