WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) – Authorities on Tuesday released images of two men accused of stealing $4.8 million in gold from a truck in a daring raid near Wilson Sunday night.
Sheriff Calvin Woodard Jr. said the two guards stopped the truck at a restaurant in Dillon, South Carolina, and filled the truck with fuel.
Once they were back on the road, they said the smell of gas made a passenger sick, forcing the them to pull over near mile marker 114 in Wilson County.
The guard who wasn’t driving was approached by two men who identified themselves as police.
Woodard said the men tied by the guards’ hands using three zip ties.
The driver, hearing a commotion outside the cab, stopped the engine and soon had his hands tied with duct tape.
Neither guard had guns on them at the time of the heist. The three men who robbed the truck had handguns, according to the search warrant.
The robbers tried to steal the truck but couldn’t get it started, even though the warrants state the truck was in good working condition. They took the gold but left behind $5 million in silver, according to warrants.
The warrants said, “There is suspicion at this time that this could be an inside job due to the circumstances of the robbery.”
The robbers placed traffic cones behind the truck. The sheriff’s office said the traffic cones bear a mark from a company in Florida. That company told authorities it only conducts its business in Florida.
One suspect was described as a heavy-set male wearing a red traffic vest.
The second suspect wore all black with tactical boots and had a white goatee.
Woodard said a mechanic inspected the truck to see if there was an existing mechanical issue that would cause the cab to smell of gas. No mechanical issue was found.
Woodard said a language barrier caused issues with the initial investigation but a translator has since helped clear up any barrier.
“There’s always suspicion. There’s suspicion of everything,” Woodard said when asked if the heist could be an inside job.
The suspects moved approximately 275 pounds of precious metals.
Authorities released 911 calls related to the gold heist on Tuesday. Those who called described what happened after the heist.
One caller said, “There’s a couple guys that look like they have their hands zip tied behind their backs,” one caller tells a dispatcher. “They look like they have some sort of guard uniform on.”
On Monday, deputies searched the woods beside I-95 for clues that could help.
The armed robbery remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office at 252-237-2118. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Meanwhile, gold buyers are on alert. Todd Melet, owner of Jewel Recycle LLC in Raleigh, said it’s possible the gold has already left the country and has been melted down.
“A lot of the multi-million dollar thefts in the industry are carried out by these very well-organized, very professional theft gangs,” Melet said.
He also said that if a large deposit of gold bars made its way to any local pawn shops, all sorts of red flags would go up.
“One concern would be, ‘Is it stolen?’ The other concern would be, ‘Is it real?’ ” Melet said. “Once you get over $10,000, it starts to be questionable.”