Springfield Gardens man sentenced for role in JFK cargo heist

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz displayed some of the stolen Gucci and Chanel luxury goods that were part of a 2020 JFK cargo heist. (Photo courtesy of Queens DA’s office)

A Springfield Gardens man will spend more than a decade in jail after he admitted his role in a massive cargo heist at JFK Airport in May 2020.

Gary McArthur, 44, of Coombs Street, was sentenced Tuesday to up to 13 and a half years in prison after pleading guilty in June to holding more than $2.5 million in stolen Gucci and Chanel designer merchandise. The luxury items were part of a Kennedy Airport heist of more than $4 million in expensive goods, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

McArthur along with co-defendant David Lacarriere, 34, were caught with jewelry, handbags, ready-to-wear clothes, sneakers and other accessories.

McArthur pleaded guilty before Queens Supreme Court Justice Gene Lopez to criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree, a B felony. Justice Lopez imposed an indeterminate sentence of 4 and a half to 13 and a half years in prison.

Co-defendant LaCarriere, of Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, pleaded guilty in September to the same charge, and was also sentenced by Justice Lopez last month to 5 and a half to 11 years in prison. Co-defendant Oscar Asencio, 33, of 88th Street in Elmhurst, pleaded guilty in August to criminal possession of stolen property and was sentenced by Justice Lopez to 3 and a half to 7 years in prison.

According to the charges, on May 17, 2020, forged documents were used to gain access to a cargo importer facility at JFK Airport. The theft crew drove away with a shipment of high-end designer Chanel and Gucci merchandise. Port Authority Police found the abandoned trailer on May 29, 2020, on 56th Road in Maspeth.

Inside, police found only shipping pallets, wrapping material, shipping tags and display cases. In an effort to cleanse the trailer of all evidence, it was doused in bleach.

Utilizing physical traditional investigative techniques, physical surveillance, as well as GPS and an extensive video canvas expanding outward from the scene of the crime, the investigative team traced Lacarriere and his co-conspirators to a non-operational beauty salon believed to be used as a stash house for the stolen goods, Katz explained.

Port Authority Police and the JFK FBI Task Force put the location — Candi World Beauty Bar at Guy R. Brewer and 147th Avenue in Jamaica — under physical surveillance.

Defendants McArthur, Lacarrier and Asencio, according to court records, helped protect the stolen merchandise in the stash location. They were all seen on video surveillance carrying bags filled with the stolen property in and out of the building.

Katz said while observing what appeared to be a sale of stolen property on June 3, 2020, the investigative team froze the Candi World location. At that time, Lacarriere ran from the police back inside the building. The investigative team executed a court-authorized search warrant for the location and searched the site.

McArthur surrendered to police and Lacarriere was found hiding inside a closet. Also inside the defunct business, the authorities discovered mountains of boxes stuffed with stolen merchandise, still in the manufacturer’s packaging. In all, police recovered more than 3,000 Gucci items and just over 1,000 authentic Chanel products worth more than $2.5 million. McArthur and Lacarriereadmitted to selling off this property from the stash house for cash during their guilty pleas.

“Detectives from the Port Authority Police Department, along with FBI agents, and the Queens DA’s Office worked relentlessly to bring this case to a close,” Port Authority Chief Security Officer John Bilich said. “What we experienced throughout the duration of this investigation was a collaborative effort for justice by multiple agencies and we stand committed to the safety and security of passengers and cargo at our airports.”

Katz added that the investigation and prosecution uncovered a weakness in the security of the region’s air cargo industry. Working with the Port Authority and the Transportation Security Administration, improved safety and security measures have been implemented.

“Millions of dollars worth of designer merchandise was illegally hauled off airport property by a crew of bandits who used forged cargo shipment receipts to gain access to an importer/exporter warehouse,” Katz said. “Keeping our airport in Queens safe and secure is a top priority of my office.. Three of the defendants have now been sentenced by the court for their roles in this brazen heist.”