NASHVILLE, Tenn. - An organized crime operation with ties across the country and overseas may have hit Middle Tennessee.
Metro police are investigating a tractor trailer theft. Someone stole $1 million worth of computers from the vehicle.
Investigators said similar heists are taking place across the country.
Federal investigators are working with Metro police to catch these truck bandits.
"Supposedly within 15 minutes she came back out to the parking lot and her rig was gone," said Metro Lt. Mickey Garner.
On Sunday, after loading nearly 1,800 laptops into a trailer at Dell, a driver took a quick break at a Kmart in Donelson. Some thieves took a quick opportunity.
"I assume they hotwired it," Garner said. "I don't think they would have had a key or anything."
Detectives recovered the tractor in South Nashville soon after the theft, but the trailer and $1 million worth of Dell laptops were not found.
"It's not necessarily a common occurrence. It happens pretty frequently throughout the country, cargo thefts," Garner said.
Recently, someone followed a driver 700 miles in California. A quick break resulted in a quick theft. Closer to home, it's happened to a truck full of televisions at the Toshiba plant in Lebanon and another Dell theft in Fairview.
Investigators think the goods all go to Miami and then are shipped overseas.
"Apparently the market overseas, it is easy getting rid of this stuff than it is here in the United States," Garner said.
Seasoned detectives and truckers such as Nancy Hosko-Leigh are now cautious of this complex and organized ring.
"They must be watching trucks when they're leaving these places," said Hosko-Leigh, who heard warnings on the radio from her company about these types of incidents.
"Once this stuff is stolen, the chance of recovering here in Tennessee is slim. It's been taken somewhere else," Garner said.
Detectives said the thieves must have received insider information from Dell to know when the rig was leaving.
Dell declined comment Friday. Officials said the company has a policy of not commenting on security matters. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the auto theft case with Metro police since this theft likely crossed state lines, if not country lines.