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Rising food costs spur massive US theft of produce, meat

Forget diamonds and cash. Rapid inflation and the tanking US economy have birthed a whole new wave of organized crime involving food. The New York Times(NYT) reports that a group of highly-sophisticated scam artists recently pulled off a massive food heist involving eight tractor-trailer loads full of produce and meat, all worth roughly $300,000.

The food theft was no ordinary theft, either. According to reports, the mystery thieves carefully planned the hijacking to coincide with high-priced tomatoes and other produce items that have seen heavy inflation in recent months. And instead of merely stealing the truckloads, the masterminds actually sent their own imposter trucks to pick up the loads, and pretended to deliver them to various intended destinations.

“I’ve never experienced people targeting produce loads before,” said Shaun Leiker, an assistant manager at Allen Lund, a trucking broker from Florida who has seen numerous cargo thefts, to NYT. “It’s a little different than selling TVs off the back of your truck.”

Leiker’s reasoning, of course, makes sense under normal economic conditions. But with massive unemployment,food shortages, and inflation, food has become a new high-value commodity that criminals appear to be increasingly targeting. And as food prices continue to rise, some authorities worry that food crimes will only escalate further.
Reports say the thieves actually created their own shipping company named E&A Transport Express, registered it with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and directly booked the pickups through a brokerage so that everything would appear legitimate.

“This was definitely a smart organization,” said Clifford Holland, owner of Old North State, a transportation brokerage that was hit by the theft, to the NYT. “It was like a snake in the grass and they struck.”

Sources for this story include:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/b…

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