kottke.org posts about Aaron Foster

Man caught with 21 tons of stolen cheese

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 29, 2013

Veniamin Konstantinovich Balika recently used false paperwork to load his 18 wheeler with 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese worth about $200K. Balika's plan was to sell the cheese to retailers on the east coast.

"There's a black market for everything," said Sissman. "We've seen everything stolen. We've found stolen beer, stolen food, stolen machine parts, but this is the first time, we've found stolen cheese.

I wanted the opinion of an industry professional so I reached out to Aaron Foster, Head Buyer at Murray's Cheese Shop.

I've seen a lot of people wondering how the culprit was planning to unload 40,000 lbs of cheese without raising suspicion. Is there such a thing as a cheddar fence? In my opinion, it really wouldn't be that hard. While the larger retailers and chains — and, of course, Murray's — have all become much more conscious of food safety and food security, there remains plenty of retailers who would jump at the chance to buy their product for pennies on the dollar, no questions asked. Literally as I wrote this, I received a vague email with the subject "RE: Special sale - Mega aged WI Cheddar". I'll pass, thanks. Groceries, specialty shops, and bodegas that work with perishables need every edge they can get to scrape by. Think about that next time you order your egg and cheese from the corner store.

And then I couldn't help but find out more about stolen cheese. Cheese theft isn't actually that uncommon. In fact, cheese is the most stolen food item of all with up to 4% of all cheese stolen at some point in it's journey from maker to mouth. A cursory Google search turned up trunks full of stolen cheese in Michigan, 52-year old naked library denizens arrested with knives and stolen cheese, stolen government cheese in 1983(!), stolen cheese spread all over a Hy-Vee men's room, video of brazen cheese wheel thieves, "the crushing authoritarianism of the Crown of England," a cheese thief in Brooklyn, and a shoplifting celebrity chef. (thx, drew)