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By Brad Tuttle
August 30, 2016

We all know why people rob banks. As the famous quote goes, that’s where the money is. Likewise, it’s easy to understand why thieves steal things like cars and jewelry: They’re worth a lot of money and can generally be sold easily to make a quick buck, so perhaps the rewards outweigh the risks.

On the other hand, sometimes the things targeted by thieves seem downright puzzling. Here are a dozen examples of things being stolen that leave us scratching our heads.


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People can be real rats. Cheese is supposedly the most shoplifted item in the world. In addition to your garden-variety small-time cheddar hefts, there are occasionally some huge heists. This summer, a band of “cheese pirates” allegedly stole a truck in Wisconsin (home of the cheeseheads) containing 20,000 pounds of cheese. Earlier in the year in the same area, a semi trailer of cheese—that is, containing cheese, the trailer itself wasn’t made of cheese, though that would be cool—was stolen. The thieves apparently didn’t have time to sell, or perhaps eat, the haul from the earlier in the year. Some $90,000 worth of parmesan was recovered a couple weeks after criminals made off with the trailer.


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Surprisingly sophisticated nut theft rings have been posing as truck drivers to rip off farmers in California. Investigators say that the criminals hack into farm databases and create fake pickup times for orders, making it easy to steal truckloads of nuts out in the open. A total of 31 truckloads were stolen over the course of a year, with the value of the pilfered nuts coming to $4.6 million. That’s nuts!

It’s difficult for law enforcement to crack down on nut thieves too, as nuts generally can’t be tagged or traced to a specific owner. “I pull over [a truck with] 30,000 lbs. of pistachios, I have to prove that those are stolen, otherwise the guy goes on his way,” one sheriff lamented.


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One reason that thieves target nuts for theft is that they have a long shelf life and don’t have to be refrigerated or otherwise kept fresh. The same cannot be said of seafood. And yet that didn’t stop three crooks from stealing a truck with 2,000 cases of barbecued eels this summer. The high-end eels, worth more than $1 million, were shipped from China to Elizabeth, N.J., and then disappeared on a truck in early June. The true owners did some legwork, and with the help of police set up a sting operation attempted to rebuy some of the eels. The criminals took the bait, three men were arrested, and nearly 1,000 boxes of eels were recovered.

Maple Syrup

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This summer, thieves made off with $150,000 (Canadian) worth of Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand of maple syrup that was stored in a warehouse near Montreal. “Maple syrup! Who would have thought,” a vice president of the trucking company storing the syrup said. “We learned this week that it’s a hot commodity — it’s liquid gold.”

The theft was reminiscent of a much bigger heist in Quebec in 2012, when 15,000 barrels of syrup worth $30 million were stolen. It reportedly required more than 100 tractor trailers to get away with such a staggeringly huge amount of syrup.

Ice Cream

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Like most of us, criminals seem to find ice cream irresistible. Sometimes ice cream thefts elicit giggles. There was the guy named Fudge who was caught ripping off $500 worth of treats and cash from the Cold Stone Creamery where he used to work. And the genius fraternity brothers who broke into Sea World to steal Dippin Dots ice cream and take selfies with the animals. More than a few ice cream trucks have been stolen over the years too.

But ice cream theft can be a real problem for stores. For months this year in New York City, supermarkets and drugstores have been reporting regular thefts of pints of Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s stolen dozens at a time. Many of the pilfered pints have supposedly made their way to city bodegas, where they’re sold for handsome profits.


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The detergent brand Tide isn’t just popular among households with laundry needs. It’s also popular among criminals, as stolen Tide can be easily sold on the black market. Tide has been used as currency by drug dealers engaging in bartering for illicit narcotics, explaining why some thefts target Tide on a grand scale. One scheme netted $25,000 worth of stolen Tide over the course of a little more than a year.


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Unsurprisingly, beer is sometimes involved when people steal beer. This appears to be the case in instances like the stolen beer truck that crashed into a barn in Maine last winter, and the stolen beer trucked crashed in a college campus in Nebraska this summer. In both cases, the drivers were arrested not only for allegedly stealing the trucks and their frosty beverages inside, but with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol as well.

Some beer thefts are just plain sad. This summer, nearly 80,000 bottles of Sweetwater Brewing beer were stolen in Atlanta, and while most of the haul was recovered, the brewer had to dump everything because they can’t be sure if the beer had been contaminated. At least those thieves had the good taste to target craft beer. One man in the Chicago area allegedly rented a truck to steal 22 pallets of beer, or a total of 1,868 cases, a few years ago. He was stealing Miller.


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In recent years, climbing prices of meat—beef in particular—seem to have made thefts from the butcher section more tempting than usual. Last summer supermarkets reported a rash of beef thefts, with criminals sometimes getting away with hundreds of dollars worth of steaks at a time. There was even a fresh burst of cattle rustling, with thousands of cows stolen from farmers last year. One farmer in Waco, Texas, saw 109 head of cattle go missing—that’s $139,100 worth of beef.


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In the great Nutella heist of 2013, some 11,000 pounds of the delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread were pilfered in Germany. Nutella theft was apparently a problem at New York’s Columbia University dining halls as well. In group living situations, Nutella is frequently stolen by the spoonful, leading one man to invent an anti-theft device nicknamed the “Nutella Lock.”

Chicken Wings

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Talk about “fowl play.” Last winter, a father-son duo allegedly stole $41,000 worth of chicken wings from a restaurant in upstate New York where they both worked. (The “Hot Wings” headlines that followed were inevitable.) In another episode, two men were caught after reportedly stealing 26,000 pounds of wings—valued at about $65,000—from a Tyson warehouse in Georgia.


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The hideous practice known as “dog flipping” rose to attention a few years ago, and unfortunately it still appears to be a problem. The crime basically involves stealing a pet, and then “flipping” it to a buyer to make a buck. The American Kennel Club reports that “dog flipping” or “dognapping” is on the rise. In one of the more despicable episodes of theft involving pets, the wheelchair used by a dog was stolen this past spring.

It’s not just dogs that thieves are after. There have been reports of cats, lizards, parrots, macaws, and hamsters being stolen, as well as more than a few snakes—which thieves sometimes stuff down their pants in pet stores. One exotic pet store in Omaha was ripped off for $18,000 worth of snakes (and frozen rats to feed them) earlier this summer, though in a happy ending the alleged thief was caught and all the reptiles and rats were all returned to their owner.

Pregnancy Tests

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According to one loss-prevention specialist at Walmart, home pregnancy tests were the most commonly shoplifted items in the store. The National Retail Federation has also highlighted the pregnancy test as one of the most frequently stolen items from America’s retailers. It appears as if the tests aren’t necessarily stolen to be resold. Instead, they’re later found (used) in the store’s restroom.


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