SAN DIEGO — The California Highway Patrol is unveiling its work in a major cargo theft bust. The bust involved multiple counties throughout the state.

The theft operation involved millions of dollars and dozens of arrests. CHP said the criminal ring would steal five to seven trailer loads a week. The trailers were filled with goods for stores or people. CHP is still investigating the owners of the stolen goods.

“We believe of this particular network and operation overload, we got the head of the snake,” said Captain Charles Leonard, California Highway Patrol Investigative Unit Captain.

CHP’s taken down of a colossal-organized cargo theft ring is being called “Operation Overloaded.”

“There’s really no rhyme or reason to who they are targeting. It’s just if there’s an opportunity they were taking it,” Leonard said.

CHP said it started with a tip in March 2022 from Riverside. Two task forces: the Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) and the Organized Retail Crime (ORC) spanned their investigation across several counties.

“This operation consisted of a lot of surveillance, undercover operations, arrests, search warrants and cooperating witnesses,” Leonard said.

To date, officers have arrested more than 40 people including men and women of all ages.

Officers have also seized 10 guns including ghost guns, $550,000 in cash, stolen trailers, tractors and big rigs. Officers also recovered $50 million worth of stolen goods that were kept in storage units and houses. Some of the items included TVs, laptops, microwaves, cars, and makeup, CHP said.

“This has obviously been occurring for a while. You don’t get this sophisticated and well organized overnight,” Leonard said.

CHP said the criminal organization steals cargo while it is waiting to be processed or moved. The ring also used fraudulent means such as disguising themselves as transporters and taking the load, but never delivering it to its proper location, according to CHP.

“They take a truck they steal and within minutes they will have a location set up, to where they have the equipment to unload it, put it in other trucks and product elsewhere,” Leonard said.
“It’s either to the black market or to unknowing innocent purchasers then they are selling it.”

A yearslong-plus investigation reached a milestone.

“This is not a surprise for us, we knew it was occurring we are more proud, at least for now, at at least this organization stopped this,” Leonard said.

CHP is seeking charges of conspiracy, grand theft, grand cargo theft, identity theft and possession of illegal guns. CHP said they still have outstanding people and items they need to recover, and plan to carry out the operation for months.