The charges in the 22-count indictment include grand larceny, conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property, for allegedly stealing and selling designer goods that were shipped to John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz identified the main defendants in the two heists as David Lacarriere, 33, and Gary McArthur, 43, both former truckers at JFK Airport who "allegedly used forged documents and their insider knowledge as former airport workers to steal air cargo," she said in a statement.
The first alleged heist occurred earlier this year on Jan. 31, authorities said. Lacarriere allegedly used a forged document to intercept a shipment of Prada products at the receiving office of an air cargo importer. He, McArthur and two others then allegedly used a tractor trailer to load them into a truck and drive away.
Police located the empty trailer, which had been doused in bleach, a few days later, authorities said. The bags, clothes and accessories allegedly netted the defendants $804,000, the DA said.
Authorities were alerted to the alleged heist when the "true truckers" showed up the next day to pick up the cargo, Katz said.
The routine was repeated in the second alleged heist, the DA said. On May 17, Lacarriere, McArthur, a third defendant -- former Delta Airlines employee Davon Davis, 32 -- and others allegedly hauled away thousands of Chanel and Gucci products valued at more than $4.4 million. Police found one of the trailers allegedly used in the heist nearly two weeks later, with shipping pallets, wrapping material, shipping tags and display cases inside. The interior was also doused in bleached, authorities said.
In June, police say they traced McArthur, Lacarriere, Davis and an unapprehended co-conspirator to a shuttered Queens beauty salon that was allegedly used as a stash house for the stolen goods. Lacarriere and McArthur allegedly sold to a fourth defendant -- Alan Vu, 51 -- nearly 120 items through another unapprehended co-conspirator. Law enforcement observed Vu allegedly load more than $300,000 worth of merchandise into his Mercedes SUV.
While executing a search warrant at the salon, police found "mountains of boxes packed with designer gear," Katz said at a press briefing Thursday. More than 3,000 Gucci items and more than 1,000 Chanel products were recovered, estimated to be worth more than $2.5 million, the district attorney's office said.
The defendants had "already sold a considerable amount of the stolen property," Katz said. Products were allegedly sold at about half their value, she said.
The months-long investigation was assisted by detectives from the Port Authority Police Department and agents with the FBI.
Calling the case "a bit of an anomaly," Port Authority Criminal Investigation Bureau Chief Matthew Wilson said at Thursday's press briefing that the multiple agencies worked together to "mitigate the vulnerabilities."
As a result of the investigation, new enhanced security protocols have been implemented at JFK cargo warehouses, Katz said, including the photographing of truck drivers who pick up high-value cargo, the installation of updated video surveillance equipment, and the strengthening of requirements for the release of cargo.
"It is imperative in Queens County, where the two airports are part of my district, that this office and our law enforcement partners send the message out that our airports are safe for travel, that our airports are a place that people can entrust with their families," Katz said. "And this is one step closer to making sure that that happens."
Lacarriere, McArthur and Davis all pled not guilty at their arraignment Wednesday. Each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Seth Koslow, the attorney for Lacarriere, told ABC News his client was surprised by the charges.
"We're anxious to see what the evidence is the people allege they have," he said. "They said a lot of things, but they haven't shown us anything yet."
Davis' attorney, Gary Merit, told ABC News his client is "seeking due process and looks forward to his next day in court."
ABC News was unable to reach an attorney for McArthur.
The three defendants are next due in court on Dec. 7.
Vu faces up to 15 years if convicted. He was taken into custody in New Jersey and is awaiting extradition to Queens, authorities said.
The two other unapprehended co-conspirators are still being sought, authorities said.