A pair of suspected tractor-trailer thieves arrested last month just north of Orlando, Fla., has been linked to the truck stolen with Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. equipment in it right before NPE 2015.
One of the suspects had a keychain that belongs to the truck driver who had been bound for the plastics expo with two injection molding presses and a robot, according to Kenneth Pond, the technical project lead for Wittmann Battenfeld's NPE exhibit that featured a robotic NASCAR pit crew.
Pond said he received an update Monday on the case from the trucking company hired to haul the high-tech cargo.
“I didn't get any other details,” Pond said in a telephone interview. “I just got the text saying they caught these guys and they're tying them to our theft with the keychain.”
The rig with Wittmann Battenfeld machines was stolen March 12 from a locked staging lot in Ormond Beach, Fla. However, the equipment did not get far. The canvas-covered trailer was found tipped over on an I-95 exit ramp.
The robot still worked and it was sent on to NPE where it “fueled” a race car, checked air pressure and helped another robot check the rear suspension. The two presses, however, were damaged.
“I believe they're totaled,” Pond said. “They were that bad.”
The trucking company has two theories about what led to the theft, Pond added. The culprits may have thought the tractor-trailer truck was carrying motorcycles because it was Bike Week in nearby Daytona from March 6-15. Or they planned to sell the truck for parts.
“When we found out the truck was first stolen, they said right out, ‘You never really see these trucks again.' They part them out and sell the wheels and tires and scrap metal,” Pond said.
He also said he did not think the case would yield any good leads for police, let alone a suspect or two.
“This is surprising. Hopefully, these are the guys,” Pond said.
“See what a souvenir will get you?” he added, referring to the key chain.
The two suspects were arrested March 18 for allegedly stealing a different tractor trailer worth — not the Wittmann Battenfeld rig — more than $100,000 from a location north of Orlando. That victim tracked down the vehicle with a GPS unit, according to a local news report. Police said the suspects were wearing latex gloves and neither could explain why they were in possession of a semi truck. One of the men also had a wallet filled with counterfeit credit cards, the report says. They were both booked on grand theft charges.