Los Angeles County officials step up investigation of stolen trademark plastic products

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Corey Moore/KPCC

L.A. County Sheriff's detectives say they've confiscated more than a million dollars worth of plastic products stolen from area business.

Some folks have probably swiped a plastic crate or two from a store parking lot to carry items in - and haven’t thought twice about it. Law enforcement officials say it’s often an innocent act. But they’re cracking down on the people who steal trademark plastic products in bulk to catch a profit.

In Downey, Amos DeGroot runs Rock View Family Farms. He said thieves have milked lots of money from his dairy business.

“These crates cost me $3.50 apiece," mentioned DeGroot. "And these people steal them and they sell them back to the recycler for 50 cents apiece. So somebody’s losing $3.”

That would be him.

The theft of more than a thousand of his company crates a day puts a serious dent in his business, DeGroot said. His company and others in San Gabriel Valley absorb combined losses of more than $10 million a year.

In recent months, authorities have packed a large City of Industry warehouse with over a million dollars worth of items they confiscated – including pallets, bread trays, soda cases and containers.

L.A. County Sheriff’s Detective Shelley Jones exclusively handles these kinds of crimes. “In most cases, the illegally obtained trademark plastic products are ground up and sold to plastic manufacturers who in turn manufacture new pallets and containers and sell them back to the victim businesses.”

Jones said her department has prosecuted some suspects and authorities are looking for more. She added that unfortunately, consumers may feel the pinch when businesses raise prices to cover the cost of stolen bins, crates and storage fixtures.

Targets that have reported the crime include the U.S. Post Office, General Motors and Coca-Cola.

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