By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - Law enforcement officials hope a Florida man who pleaded guilty to extortion and was sentenced to about three-and-half years in prison on Tuesday may help identify who stole an estimated $4.8 million of gold from a truck passing through North Carolina earlier this year.
Miguel Bovar, 49, was arrested in April after giving a pawn broker a gold bar matching those stolen from the truck to try to sell to a Miami-area refinery, according to court records. An off-duty police officer working there tipped off FBI agents to the pending deal and the gold was seized.
As the deal soured, Bovar began demanding payment from the broker and sending threatening texts in Spanish. "You are not going to get away from the heat," one said, according to court documents.
In a plea agreement federal prosecutors in Miami promised to reduce Bovar's sentence in exchange for his assistance in an ongoing investigation. He had faced up to 20 years in prison. An FBI spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
FBI officials in late March announced a $25,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of those who carried out the heist of the truck laden with precious metals on its way from Florida to Massachusetts.
While driving through North Carolina the truck's drivers pulled over after they both began to feel sick.
"Later investigation of the tractor trailer's cabin revealed what appeared to be an aerosol spray pattern between the driver's seat and passenger's seat," court records said.
As they got out, three men armed with handguns pulled up in a white truck, presented themselves in Spanish as police, and tied up the drivers' hands. They cut the truck's locks and began loading 10 gold bars weighing 275 pounds into buckets. The two drivers were walked into the woods and left there as the group made its getaway.
(Editing by David Adams and Sandra Maler)