Stolen Goods Online

Not Sold To The Public…Unless You Shop Online.

January 16, 2006

By Kent Perkins


The Internet has become the marketplace of the millennium, enabling trade on a global basis. Websites like Amazon.com, uBid, Yahoo and E-Bay are used by bold thieves to sell your stolen goods to unwary customers.

The Internet offers an online platform for trafficking in stolen Company goods by computer-savvy employees.

By Kent Perkins

A large motion picture studio discovered expensive movie promotional merchandise, limited in production and not available to the general public, was selling on E-Bay. We were retained to investigate the matter because the items, which cost $500 each, were being offered for $400 by an unknown local seller who had already sold several of the expensive promo pieces.

We identified the seller as a female with an address a few blocks from the studio, but she was not a studio employee. We asked for the home addresses of all employees in the department from which the promotional merchandise was distributed, and discovered a "hit" with a 5-year veteran of the department who used the same address as the E-Bay seller. Examining his personnel file and other pertinent sources, we determined the female E-Bay seller was actually the male employee's "fiancé," named as beneficiary of his company life insurance.

We examined videotape from a hidden camera inside the work area from which the items were stolen, and observed the suspect stuffing boxes full of company product. Although the covert camera was in place for months, nobody ever took the time to review the video footage until we asked for it.

The employer brought the employee in for an interview with an experienced investigator who specializes in conducting suspect interviews. The employee admitted to having stolen more than $100,000 in company property over the past three years. Additionally, he also admitted to having sold cocaine at work to several employees, naming all the drug buyers, and told us where his cocaine was hidden inside his vehicle on company property! He provided both written and tape-recorded confessions, in which he testified to the fair and respectful treatment he received during the interview.

The police were called, the cocaine was recovered, and the employee went to jail.

Detectives searched the employee's residence near the studio with a rapidly-obtained search warrant, and more than $250,000 in company property was recovered, including several historically important museum-quality items the studio did not even realize were missing.

The employee is now serving eight years in prison for grand theft, drug possession, and burglary. His former fiancé, who turned witness for the State, was not prosecuted for selling the stolen items on E-Bay. The police felt the case was better served keeping her only as a witness, and she agreed to testify against the employee; their wedding plans ended quickly thereafter.

Other employees named as buyers of illegal drugs were subsequently apprehended in an undercover drug investigation launched because of the information provided by the suspect employee, and the studio terminated all of them a few weeks later. With the terminations based on confessions, and with all interviewed employees testifying they were treated respectfully and fairly during the interview process, no subsequent job claims were ever made by those terminated.

Management found that only about a third of the terminated employees actually needed to be replaced; the productivity of those involved was bad, perhaps due, at least in part, to the distractions of substance abuse at work.

About the Author:

Kent Perkins is managing partner and senior executive investigator with the corporate investigation firm Diversified Risk Management, Inc. Diversified provides a broad range of specialized risk management and corporate investigation services which control losses and minimize legal exposure to employers. The nationwide firm assists corporations, non-profit organizations and law firms in recognizing and responding to risks through a comprehensive and integrated suite of professional services. You can learn more about the firm by visiting DiversifiedRiskManagement.com, calling 800.810.9508, or by email . (CA. PI licenses PI-17240 and PI-23294)