In the early morning on Wednesday, agents of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) conducted 17 raids in different parts of the country and arrested 13 suspects accused of belonging to a gang that attacked and robbed semi-trailer drivers in Costa Rica’s Pacific region.
In the Caribbean province of Limón, prison police and OIJ agents at Sandoval Prison raided the cell of an inmate with the last name Arrieta, aka “Rata,” and seized eight mobile phones.
Police investigations point to Arrieta as the leader of the gang and the man responsible for coordinating the attacks from his prison cell.
Another gang member was arrested at his home in Matina, Limón, and three other suspects were nabbed in Liberia, the capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste.
At Costa Rica’s southern border at Paso Canoas, cops arrested a Customs officer with the last names García González, who police believe is responsible for tipping off the gang with information on targeted semis, including license plate numbers, type of merchandise and cargo value.
In Tres Ríos, east of the capital, police raided the home of Arrieta’s girlfriend, a Panamanian woman who is accused of assisting him in coordinating the hits. Some of the stolen merchandise was found in a house in the canton of Alajuelita, south of San José.
All of the arrested suspects, including Arrieta, were transported by air to the Pacific province of Puntarenas, where most of the robberies occurred.
Since March, the gang has targeted at least seven semi-trailers traveling on the Inter-American Highway and on the Costanera, a highway that runs parallel to the Pacific coast.
According to the OIJ, the gang stole some $1.5 million in merchandise.
Cargo companies first became aware that something was wrong with shipments when GPS tracking showed the semis being diverted from their scheduled routes. Thieves violently attacked and threatened truck drivers, ordering them to drive the cargo to remote locations, where it was transferred to other vehicles.
Suspects are being held in custody pending preliminary hearings on preventive detention.