The owner of a New York-based company, Bokksu, which makes its money selling interesting and rare Japanese snacks in subscription parcels mailed out to clients, had an estimated $250,000 in rare Kit Kat go missing. The shipment, which was supposed to arrive into the U.S. from Japan and be shipped east to New Jersey went missing in a scam involving identity theft and shell email accounts.
The dramatic perishable candy heist put an incredible amount of stress on U.S. small business owner Danny Taing, who is in a race against time to try to recoup as much as possible of the $110,000 he'd spent on the shipment, which he intended to resell for a profit.
Authorities investigated the crime as a possible part of a disturbing spike in an online-based fraud trend called "strategic theft" or "fictitious pickups," which involves elements of extortion and identity theft.
CargoNet reported that about 200 incidents of cargo theft have already been reported every month so far this year.
Keith Lewis, the company's vice president, said incidents of strategic cargo theft are up by 700% in 2023.
One now-common form of fake pickup scams is called "shipment misdirection," in which the perpetrator impersonates a motor carrier to get an authorization to be the transporter for a shipment. The shipment will then be transported by a legitimate carrier hired to take the load to a place to which the scammers have access.
CargoNet says there have been over 600 attempts to carry out shipment misdirections since November.
As Taing continued to frantically try to find out where the 55,000 rare Kit Kats had disappeared to, he decided to hire Shane Black of Freight Rate Central in Florida. The company coordinates fleets of trucks across the United States, and were paid $13,000 to try to find the shipment.
That started a new mission filled with posts to message boards and email replies to someone named Tristan with HCH Trucking, and then later to someone named Manny from MVK Transport Inc., to find the shipment and hope that the chocolate bars weren't melted, the New York Times reported.
Part of the shipment was reportedly found, but proper identification to release the shipment and storage fees became another hurdle in the saga.
Investigators say criminals have targeted shipments of goods as varied as electronics, to energy drinks and solar panels, with crimes of this type happening across the country.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com