- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

MIAMI, April 18 (UPI) — Police are looking for a 5-gallon bucket of gold dust worth as much as $347,000 missing from a shipment at Miami International Airport.

Detective Kevin Kozak said he thought it was an inside job.

"I believe there are people who work at the airport solely for the purpose of individual gain," Kozak said. "This gives them access to high-value cargo."

Jewelers said the thieves will have a hard time selling the 73 pounds of unrefined gold in its current state but it's another matter if they melt it down into gold bricks or jewelry.

They said there is no shortage of melting furnaces belonging to jewelers throughout the country.

Kozak said a $5,000 reward has been offered. A crate containing the gold says it is worth $160,000. Under market gold prices, it could be worth $347,000. But the reward, offered with no questions asked, could make it easier for the thieves.

"They'd probably get more from the reward than they probably would ever get from trying to deal with that unless they sent it to one of the processing labs, which would mean they would have to put their name on it," Kozak said.

Police were notified immediately on the day of the theft, but after more than a month of investigating, they decided to go public Friday, with a reward.

The police report said American Cargo employee Jose Martelo received six buckets of gold at gate D-24 at the airport, and continued on to other gates to pick up other items.

At one point, the baggage handlers had to leave the cart to deal with other cargo.

"There were some other vehicles between their line of sight and this cargo, and one of them was taken off the baggage truck," Kozak said.

At gate E-12 on an adjacent concourse, Martelo discovered a bucket was missing.

"Area canvassed with negative recovery," the police report said.

Police would not say who shipped the gold or where it was going, and Martelo is not commenting.

Jewelers said gold is mined or collected from streams in several locations in Central America.

Gold dust is routinely shipped to Miami and elsewhere in the United States where it is melted into bars or jewelry.

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