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LABELLE HAZMAT: New arrest, details on what investigators found after they got sick

Report: About $1 million dollars in stolen vehicles recovered
Posted at 11:53 AM, Jul 03, 2024

LABELLE, Fla — Fox 4 Community Correspondents are still working to get information about a mysterious hazmat investigation in LaBelle, more than three weeks after several first responders got sick investigating a scene.

Wednesday, Fox 4 Senior Reporter, Kaitlin Knapp, obtained a report that sheds more light on what investigators were doing at a storage lot on N. Industrial Loop. It says nearly a million dollars in stolen property was recovered there. It also revealed that a second person was arrested.

The report says on June 19 Hendry County Deputies executed a search warrant in reference to a stolen vehicle hauler. In the process, they say they also found a stolen SUV and a stolen RV.

Watch: Here's Fox 4 drone video of the lot and the stolen RV.

NEW VIDEO: Daytime drone video shows motorhome at center of haz-mat case

Investigators say the RV was locked, so they looked through an open window and saw a man lying face down on the floor. They say that man was later identified as Juan Gonzalez Diaz, of Miami.

A suspect has been identified by HCSO.jpeg

He was arrested on an outstanding federal warrant for probation violation.

After they got Gonzalez Diaz out of the RV, the report says, "Detectives and Deputies who entered the RV began to feel ill and as a result were transported to the Hospital for further evaluation. The scene was secured and contained for further investigation."

Watch: Exclusive Fox 4 drone video of the first night of the investigation

ONLY ON FOX 4: Drone Video 2 of Hazmat scene in LaBelle

More than 20 first responders got sick. Of those who were taken to the hospital, all were treated and released. Investigators say they never figured out what made them sick.

The report also revealed that a man named Giovel Chmelnicky Valdes was arrested on grand theft charges.

Giovel Chmelnicky Valdes
Giovel Chmelnicky Valdes was arrested on grand theft charges

An arrest report says Valdes told deputies he did car repair work in Miami and moved his work to a space he rented at the lot on N. Industrial. Deputies say one of the vehicles he brought with him, a semi truck, was stolen.

The report says for the next three days the following agencies investigated the scene:

  • Hendry County Sheriff's Office
  • Ft. Myers Fire Department Hazmat Team
  • Lee County Strike Team
  • Labelle Fire Department Hazmat Team
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • Homeland Security
  • Army National Guard CST

After three days, the all clear was given, and investigators continued serving the search warrant. They say they found a total of 15 stolen vehicles and trailers worth about a million dollars. Here's the list:

  • 2022 White Freightliner flatbed tow truck
  • 2019 Black F450
  • Tiffin Phaeton RV
  • Black Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2018 White Wabash trailer (full of Printers Valved $317,000)
  • 2011 Black Ford F250 (Stripped)
  • 2020 White Dodge Challenger (Just body)
  • 2015 White Ford F550 (with a toolbox body full of tools)
  • 2024 Black Peterbilt Truck (Just Cab)
  • 2024 White Freightliner Truck (Just cab on Lowboy trailer)
  • 2014 Green Kenworth Semi
  • Unknown make box trailer with stolen Peterbilt cab and sleeper inside.
  • Unidentifiable low boy trailer
  • 2005 Volvo Truck
  • White Peterbilt and Car hauler
  • 2003 Black Ford F250 (transmission)
  • Ford L9000 with multiple vehicle parts
  • 2018 Gold Cadillac