Headline — 31 October 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Alleged Hilux thief nabbed; cops searching for mastermind

BELMOPAN–What is believed to be a high-end vehicle theft/smuggling ring which was concentrated in the Belmopan area finally has been busted by authorities in that municipality, who have implicated an employee of a prominent car dealership as a functionary in the thievery, while the mastermind, a Belmopan-based mechanic, who is believed to be on the run, is presently being sought by investigators.

Four government-issued Toyota Hilux vehicles went missing without a trace in the past three months, but in the most recent incident, the fifth, which took place last Thursday, October 23, the crooks bungled in their efforts to heist another late model Hilux from the Institute of Archeology’s Belmopan office, and as a result provided an opportunity to Belmopan police, who have been zealously investigating the series of embarrassing thefts, to finally crack the case via the arrest of a key accomplice.

He has been identified as Hector Armando Monterosa, 22, a resident of St. Matthews, Cayo District, who was employed as a maintenance worker at the Belize Diesel and Equipment Company in Belmopan.

Monterosa, who was reportedly hired to wash vehicles after servicing, and in some cases, to deliver them back to the clients, allegedly used his job at Belize Diesel – the in-country Toyota dealer – to gain access to the vehicle’s keys, which were illegally duplicated and later used to steal the vehicles.

In speaking with the media about the matter today, Superintendent Howell Gillett, the Officer in Charge of Belmopan police, spoke about the development and revealed how the culprits were able to gain access to the Institute of Archeology’s vehicle when it was brought in to the dealership for servicing sometime last week.

He said, “It has to do with when people would take their vehicles to the technician and the vehicle is left there for maintenance. The key would be taken to somewhere, they are copied and then brought back like usual. We don’t believe he [Monterosa] is the mastermind – to us, he facilitated the process by copying the keys and giving them to someone else. But the real mastermind, if you want to use that word, he was the person who was driving the vehicle on that day [last Thursday] and we know who we are looking for. Just that the person is not at his usual place of residence, but we will continue to look for him.”

That so-called mastermind is Edin Fernando Salinas/Seren, 21, a mechanic, who is believed to have already fled the country and absconded to Guatemala, which also happens to be where police believe the stolen vehicles were taken and sold into what has been described as a lucrative market for high-end stolen vehicles.

Police have contacted Interpol to assist them in the capture of Salinas/Seren, and although he narrowly managed to elude authorities during the latest Hilux theft last Thursday, Gillett said that they are confident that he will be nabbed soon.

In the meantime, Monterosa, who had reportedly been working at Belize Diesel for over a year, was charged for abetment to commit theft and upon his arraignment in the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court today, he was offered bail of $10,000 plus two sureties of the same amount, which he has not yet been able to meet.

He was thus to be remanded into custody at the Belize Central Prison until his next court date on January 15, 2015.

Five days ago, an alert employee of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) luckily spotted a government-issued white 2011 4-door Toyota Hilux pickup, assigned to the Archeology Department, being driven out of the NICH parking lot by what turned out to be an unauthorized driver.

It would have gone down as the fifth government vehicle to have been stolen; however, Belmopan police, who had been making extra efforts to catch the bandits, had initiated a plan which involved the setting up of a roadblock near Georgeville in the Cayo District, but the slippery car thief evaded authorities by driving onto a dirt road.

He later abandoned the vehicle and escaped into nearby bushes on the outskirts of the village after being trailed by another NICH employee who was in the area and had heard about the incident.

Salinas/Seren was later identified and incriminated based on DNA evidence which was gathered from the stolen truck.

Four other Toyota Hilux vehicles – two from the Ministry of Health, one from the Department of the Environment and one from OIRSA, an intergovernmental department – were all heisted during the past three months from within the Belmopan area, and while it may be virtually impossible to retrieve any of those trucks at this point in time, Supt. Gillett mentioned that at least they were able to get to the bottom of the issue and confirm the theories that they have had all along.

Of note is that the duo have so far only been positively linked to the last Hilux theft which occurred last Thursday.

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