By Tamas Mondovics

Thanks to the cooperation between the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s, District IV office, two Riverview residents are now behind bar for roles in automotive battery theft ring.

Christian Lee Hancock, 36, and Tina Inez Schneider, 37, owners of Gator Core Inc., a secondary metal recycling company in Riverview, were sentenced last month to federal prison terms as well as a judgment in excess of $2 million.

As reported by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, officials, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., sentenced Hancock to 57 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud and structuring financial transactions to evade federal currency transaction reporting requirements; conspiring to commit money laundering; and substantive wire fraud, money laundering and structuring charges.

Moody also sentenced Schneider to 13 months in federal prison for structuring financial transactions.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, between 2006 and 2009, Hancock and Schneider conspired with others to steal hundreds of tractor-trailer loads of used automotive batteries that were destined for Envirofocus Technologies, a lead smelter in the Tampa area and Johnson Controls, Inc.

With some help from other co-conspirators, the documents and records were falsified in order to conceal the thefts of more than 8 million lbs. of batteries from Envirofocus, which were then re-sold through Gator Core for a substantial profit.

The conspiracy resulted in a loss to Envirofocus and Johnson Controls of more than $3.3 million.

Hancock was the president of Gator Core, Inc., and Schneider was the vice president. The court also ordered Hancock to forfeit approximately $1.1 million, which are proceeds traceable to the offense.  As part of sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in excess of $1 million.

“This was a major operation for us and I am very proud of all the deputies and law enforcement officers who spent many hours and have worked diligently on the case,” said 30-year veteran Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office District IV Captain Stephen Launikitis.

Launikitis emphasized that with the recent increase of copper and metal theft, the department has been focusing its attention on recycling businesses. Thanks to the efforts of well-trained deputies, thieves can be caught and brought to justice.

For more information about cases handled by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, please visit


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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.