Brothers Charged in Nation's Largest-Ever Pharmaceutical Heist

Ahmed Villa is also accused in Illinois of stealing more $8 million worth of cigarettes, federal officials said

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    Edward Sagebiel, a spokesman for Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, said the stolen drugs included the antidepressants Prozac and Cymbalta and the antipsychotic Zyprexa. No narcotics or painkillers were taken, he said.

    A Cuban man arrested in Miami in connection with a massive pharmaceutical heist has also been accused in Illinois of stealing more $8 million worth of cigarettes, federal officials said.

    Ahmed Villa, 46, and his 37-year-old brother, Amaury Villa, were arrested Thursday. Federal officials said a water bottle one of them left behind at the scene of the Enfield, Conn., heist lead them to their suspects.

    Federal officials said the brothers staked out the Eli Lilly warehouse, in Connecticut, in January 2010. Two months later, officials said the Villas cut a hole in the roof and disabled the security. For five hours, they used a forklift inside the facility, lifted boxes and placed them in trucks, according to U.S. Attorney David Fein.

    They made off with enough drugs to fill at least one tractor-trailer, police said, just as a nor'easter battered the region with heavy rain and wind before dawn.

    The company, at the time, said the drugs were worth about $70 million to the company.

    Amaury checked out of a hotel in Windsor that day, drove a rental car to New York and flew from LaGuardia to Miami, Fein said.

    Despite the elaborate efforts to skirt security, Amed touched a water bottle in the facility and left it there, federal authorities said.

    Federal authorities have not revealed whether they linked the bottle to Amed through a fingerprint, DNA or something else. That will come out in court.

    Surveillance video picked up the brothers and there were documents linking the men to rental cars and leases.

    Police and Eli Lilli officials said the drugs were likely headed for the black market and the drug company immediately issued a warning, asking people to watch for tampering on products that might indicate that they were stolen.

    Some of the drugs were found in a storage facility in Florida. An indictment charges 11 people with possession and sale of narcotics, some of which were stolen in the Enfield theft, federal officials said.

    Edward Sagebiel, a spokesman for Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, said the drugs included the antidepressants Prozac and Cymbalta and the antipsychotic Zyprexa. No narcotics or painkillers were taken, he said.

    Zyprexa and Cymbalta were Eli Lilly's two best-selling drugs last year. Prozac was Lilly's first billion-dollar drug and the company's top seller before it lost patent protection several years ago.

    "It has the appearances of a sophisticated, well-planned criminal action," said Sagebiel, describing the other missing products as "a mix of pharmaceutical products."

    The investigation of the warehouse theft was part of a larger investigation of cargo theft,  including trucks in Pennsylvania. Ohio and Tennessee,  and a GlaxoSmithKline drug warehouse in Virginia.  Amaury Villa is one of 11 people arrested in Florida.