In Los Angeles, CA an apparently bogus trucking company masquerading as a legitimate operator picked up a 25,000 pound load of Russian king crab worth $400,000 but then failed to deliver to the intended recipient in Seattle, WA as reported by Hal Bernton for The Seattle Times: "'We had an insurance guy tell us that guys who did this were just plain professionals to make a full load of crab disappear,' said Jerry Benzel, a dispatcher for New Sound Transportation, a Western Washington company that contracted with the truck driver to deliver the shipment."
A similar scam targeted a tomato distributor in South Florida last month.
In the 2010 National Cargo Theft Report released last week, the National Insurance Crime Bureau identifies the "fraudulent pickup" as a common method used by organized crime groups in stealing loads: "a driver or trucking company (often accessing cargo load information through online brokering sites) impersonates a legitimate carrier and secures a contract to transport cargo. The cargo is then stolen, often with no trace of the fraudulent driver or trucking company."
The FBI reports that "cargo thefts ring up as much as $30 billion in losses each year."
Most cargo thefts are investigated by local police who lack the skills or resources to target the sophisticated operations, amd district attorneys are reluctant to prosecute the crimes because of the light sentences upon convictions as reported by Daniel Grushkin for Businessweek. Accordingly, organized crime has locked upon this low-risk, high-profit racket like a pitbull on a steak: "Nearly half of all cargo thefts are committed by organized specialists," and "a number of these . . . are carried out by a syndicate based in South Florida, many of them Cuban."