MIDLOTHIAN — The rebuttal directed to Charlie the Tuna in countless commercials, “Sorry Charlie,” rang true on March 6, as Marcus Lynn Phillips was booked into the Wayne McCollum Detention Center for cargo theft. The Wichita Falls resident was arrested in connection with the theft of semi-truck containing $85,000 in StarKist canned tuna.

“This case originated out of Midlothian. This offense occurred in July of 2016 when a tractor-trailer was stolen. The load was pallets of StarKist canned tuna and the value of the tuna was $85,000. ,” Tri-County Auto Theft Task Force Capt. Stan Davis said. “A portion of it was recovered in Dallas County from a storage facility. Another investigator had some information that cargo theft suspects frequented that area and had gone to that area. That is how he located it.”

Davis said the original driver parked the semi-truck in the 200 block of Henderson St. in Midlothian on July 1, 2016. When the driver came back the next day, he discovered the vehicle was missing.

The task force then began working in conjunction with the Midlothian Police Department.

Davis said that — through the investigative process and talking to different witnesses — the investigator was able to identify Phillips as a suspect about a month after the theft took place. Davis added that Phillips has a history of cargo theft offense in Dallas County.

“Cargo theft is a fairly new statute. Cargo theft used to fall under the theft statute, regular theft, but because it is such a multi-billion dollar problem in the United States they got legislators a couple of years ago to make it a more serious offense,” Davis said. “It really depends on the value of it. This is a theft of cargo between $100,000 - $200,000. It is a third-degree felony. It is up to 10 years in state prison.”

“We are a multi-county auto task force group and we are funded through the state,” Davis added. “Agencies within our service area can participate and do joint efforts to combat auto thefts.”

According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website, the Tri-County Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Task Force consists of six full-time investigators, two part-time officers, and one secretary. The Task Force serves the unincorporated portions of Johnson and Ellis County as well as the Cities of Mansfield and Burleson.

“The Task Force's goals and objectives are primarily criminal enforcement and public awareness,” the website stated. “The criminal enforcement objectives are focused on bait operations and various inspections, while the public awareness objectives are primarily the attendance and exposure of auto burglary and theft prevention authority literature at community and public events throughout the service area. This Task Force was created on September 1, 2011.”

The Mansfield Police Department’s website states that the Tri-County Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Task Force is funded through grants by the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority. In 2009, the ABTPA became part of the newly established Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Phillips was booked into the detention center at 2:49 p.m. on March 6. He remains in custody on a $40,000 bond as of 4 p.m. Thursday. The Daily Light reached out to StarKist for a comment about the arrest, but messages were left unreturned.

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