The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Truck hijacking in '83 was comedy of errors


The 1983 hijacking of a tractor-trailer truck loaded with 38,550 pounds of meat should have been made into a Hollywood comic-action movie by now.

The hijacking of the meat truck in Friona, Texas, was not funny, but the incident became comic when an assorted cast of characters brought the meat truck into Curry and Quay counties and sold boxes of meat to individuals. They then tried to hide the evidence of their crime — the truck — by dismantling it.

They sold parts and then buried the leftovers of the truck.

The FBI got wind of the heist when the buried truck was discovered near Logan. Federal officials were reluctant to discuss whether more trucks were believed hijacked, but they alleged they might have a hijacking ring on their hands.

Why did the FBI get involved? Well, transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce, they said, was a federal crime. And they said the hijackers “failed to report knowledge of the crime.”

“We would not normally take a case such as this,” an FBI official said, “unless we believe it is an organized operation. It’s always hard to say how many other cases might have been involved.”

An organized operation seems kind of far-fetched. Can’t you just see the hijackers sitting around and discussing the plot:

“Now you, John, and you, Harry, go to Friona and take the first big meat truck you can find. You both can drive a truck, can’t you?

“Well, anyway, drive it back into New Mexico and don’t worry about crossing state lines. The FBI doesn’t patrol the highway from Friona to Broadview and beyond, so you are safe. Now you, Pete, and you, Jack, sell the heck out of that meat! We can’t eat up that much meat ourselves. Get whatever price you can talk the suckers into paying. Remember, it’s the money we’re after. Tell them it is real fresh meat!”

I wonder what might have happened if one of the hijackers had suggested it might have been easier to rob a bank.

The hijackers’ undoing was a series of telephone conversations.

An official with the U.S. attorney’s office reported phone records and other information that linked the hijackers to each other.

The FBI rounded up the hijackers after using heavy equipment to dig up sites in eastern New Mexico where parts of the stolen truck were buried. The only reason the FBI found the leftovers of the buried truck is because one of the culprits made a deal with authorities and led them to the burial site. He pleaded guilty to failing to report knowledge of a crime and got a lesser sentence.

Indictments were returned in the case and one hijacker from Texas received eight years in prison. I’m guessing he was the boss in the caper.

Someone had to be very clever to talk other people into stealing meat and selling it, then burying the stolen truck.

I think those six people were hornswoggled.

Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.


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