What's With All the Hungry Thieves? Food Heists Are Becoming a Trend


Based on a spate of unusual robberies around the world recently, thieves aren't just money-hungry anymore -- they're plain hungry. These sticky-fingered felons have avoided robbing banks and instead made off with mass quantities of foodstuffs, from soup to Nutella. Here's a rundown of some of the tastier capers we've seen lately:

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What's With All the Hungry Thieves? Food Heists Are Becoming a Trend
It seems that in one corner of Germany, it just isn't safe to transport food in trucks anymore. In the small town of Bad Hersfeld, northeast of Frankfurt, thieves are running off with literally truckloads of goods. In August, 34,000 cans of Red Bull were robbed off a truck; in March, 30,000 euros ($40,000) worth of coffee; and this month, five tons of Nutella. That's 16,000 euros ($20,800) worth of chocolaty hazelnut goodness. It seems unlikely that a sweet tooth was the motive for that latest crime, but rather the odds of being able to move the spread easily and profitably on the black market. A large jar of Nutella can cost upwards of $6.50, even at discount retailers like Walmart (WMT).

An Orlando, Fla., man should have studied the work of his German counterparts better before he decided to hijack a trailer full of Campbell's soup this month. Investigators are unsure of the motives behind the crime -- Black market sales? A terrible cold? --  but after a 30-mile chase that involved a helicopter and K-9 law-enforcement unit, he was caught and the $75,000 worth of canned soup was safely retrieved.

"The court has seen many things stolen ... This is the first time the court's ever seen $75,000 worth of soup stolen," Broward County Judge Jay Hurley told the 51-year-old at his arraignment.

Canadians are known for their love of maple syrup, and Quebec has been called the "Saudi Arabia of syrup." So perhaps it's only natural that someone might view it as a liquid asset. Last August, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers discovered something strange in their stockpile. Someone had snuck off with $30 million worth of pure syrup, leaving behind barrels filled instead with water.  There was panic. If that much syrup was released onto the black market, prices would be driven down and producers would suffer. Fortunately for breakfasts everywhere, in December, Canadian authorities raided a facility in New Brunswick and recovered most of the stolen goods.

In February, as a Krispy Kreme driver was making a delivery to a gas station convenience store in Dacula, Ga., a man police later identified as James Freddy Major jumped into the truck and took off, giving those on the road that night the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a convoy of police cars in hot pursuit of a doughnut truck.

After running a couple of lights, Major rammed into a mailbox, then attempted to escape on foot. He was tackled by a police dog and eventually arrested. It was, according to media reports, his 11th arrest in Gwinnett County since 1999.

A man from Illinois used fake paperwork to trick a Wisconsin cheese producer into loading  $200,000 worth of Muenster on to his truck. He was arrested in New Jersey and the cheese recovered. However, the company, K&K Cheese, doesn't want its 42,000 pounds of cheese back because of concerns that it may have been tampered with. Instead, they will donate it to charity, if it gets cleared by the New Jersey health inspectors.

Maybe this thief didn't get the memo that the cheese bandit had been caught: He ran off with $100,000 worth of hamburger patties this month. The aspiring hamburglar struck at the shipping yard in New Jersey, rolling of with a shipment of burgers originally destined for The Netherlands. A spokesperson for the Linden Police Department said that food crimes like these occur frequently, and if the loot is not recovered within 48 hours, it has probably already made its way onto the black market.

Not every grocery-related theft involves edible items. Supermarkets, discounters and other retailers have all been victims of unusual crime trend recently: People stealing Tide laundry detergent. And it's no small matter: Some stores across the country are losing $10,000 to $15,000 worth of detergent a month.

After a series of such thefts were reported to them, police in Maryland started to get suspicious; it seemed like a more complicated matter than just random petty thefts. Turns out, all those shoplifters weren't just eager to wash their clothes; they were trading the Tide for drugs. Laundry detergent has become a popular item to barter for illegal drugs or sell to black market operations, because it's impossible to track, doesn't spoil, and everyone needs it. Tide, which is the nation's most popular detergent brand, is also significantly more expensive than most other detergents. Like the maple syrup we mentioned before, Tide, too, has earned the nickname “liquid gold" for its value as street currency.

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