How stolen freezies and strawberries are turning into a $5B black market

In a heat wave like this, it’s not hard to imagine why someone might have stolen two tractor-trailers full of Kisko freezies two weeks ago. But the $60,000 heist is actually part of an increasingly sophisticated organized crime network that’s infiltrating the shipping industry.

'This organized crime is so sophisticated, their supply chain would really be the envy of any of us'

Kisko Products has twice been hit by cargo theft in the past two years, the company's president Mark Josephs said. (Grant Linton/CBC)

In a heat wave like this, it's not hard to imagine why someone might have stolen two tractor-trailers full of Kisko freezies two weeks ago.

But the $60,000 heist is actually part of an increasingly sophisticated organized crime network that's infiltrating the shipping industry.

Cargo theft has created a black market worth between $5 to $6 billion a year countrywide, according to estimates from police and the Ontario Trucking Association.

In York region, alone about 50 cargo thefts are reported each year — with police recovering $4 to $5 million in goods, said Det.-Sgt. Paul LaSalle who is part of the force's cargo theft unit.

The majority of what's stolen is food, with LaSalle having seen everything from meat to strawberries go missing.

"It doesn't have serial numbers," he explained. "Those flats of berries can hit corner stores or markets, consumers are going to buy them and they'll get rid of them very quickly."

York Regional Police Det.-Sgt. Paul LaSalle says that his cargo theft team recovers about $4 to $5 million in stolen goods each year. (CBC )

While historically cargo theft involved hotwiring a loaded truck, LaSalle said it's now evolved from petty theft into "a complicated shell game."

Fraudsters pose as shipping operatives, creating a false company name to bid on the jobs offered online by food producers, Lasalle said.

The false company will then pick up the goods, but never deliver them — and by the time the manufacturer realizes they've been robbed, it's often too late.

"They want to be able to unload it fairly quickly," Lasalle said of the goods. "They don't want the risk of it travelling on a highway for a long period of time."

Freezie heist

Kisko Products has fallen victim to this kind of heist twice in two years, its president Mark Josephs said.

While police were able to track down the missing freezies this time, they could only put one of the truckloads back into their inventory — losing about $30,000 in revenue, Josephs said.

"The thieves hacked into the computer system of the trucking company and stole all their information about all the loads," he said. "This organized crime is so sophisticated their supply chain would really be the envy of any of us in the industry."