8 charged in series of beer thefts at Northeast railyards and warehouses

Eight men have been charged in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of beer – mostly Corona and Modelo shipped from Mexico – from railyards and warehouses over the last two years, federal prosecutors say.

The alleged leader, Jose Cesari, surrendered to authorities Thursday morning, the office of Southern District of New York US Attorney Damian Williams told CNN. Information about his arraignment and legal representation was not immediately available.

The “Beer Theft Enterprise” operated between July 2022 and March 2024 and committed dozens of railyard and beverage distribution center thefts – typically at night – throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to an unsealed indictment.

The men involved cut the locks off railroad cars and cut holes in fences around the warehouses to gain unlawful access and carry out the crimes, according to the indictment.

The stolen beer was then brought to the Bronx where it was “inspected and then made available for sale,” according to the indictment, with the enterprise members getting “paid hundreds of dollars for the night’s work.”

The enterprise “operated brazenly,” its members “filling U-Haul box trucks to the brim with cases of beer,” Williams said in a statement announcing the charges Wednesday.

According to the indictment, one of Cesari’s Instagram posts had a railroad as the background and text that said: “Need workers who want to make money,” with a moneybag emoji, and had a “yes” or “no” button.

On one occasion, in April 2023, Cesari “robbed at gunpoint a railroad car stationed in Fresh Pond Yard in Queens, New York,” the indictment says.

Cesari has been charged with conspiracy to steal from interstate or foreign shipments by carrier, and he faces other theft and firearm charges. The seven others also are charged with conspiracy, with some of them also facing other charges.

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