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A Mystery – Where Are The KitKats Worth $250,000

A load of rare Kit Kats became the object of an elaborate cargo theft, a growing area of crime in the United States.Credit...Adam Amengual for The New York Times

Danny Taing’s 55,000 Kit Kats began their long, twisted and sometimes obscure journey in Japan.

Mr. Taing is the founder of Bokksu, a New York company that sells Japanese snacks in subscription boxes, and he intended to make a tidy sum by flipping the sweets stateside.

The Kit Kat shipment — which included sought-after flavors like melon, matcha latte and daifuku mochi — had cost $110,000, but Bokksu expected to make about $250,000 in total revenue.

“You can fit a lot of Kit Kats into two containers,” he said.

And they are a booming business. In Japan, enthusiasts clamor for the rarer flavors, with some sold for just a few weeks or only in a specific region. In the United States, obsessives fawn over the collectibles, comparing reviews on Japanese snack blogs and shelling out for limited editions.

These particular Kit Kats would become the key players in an ultimately frustrating saga of shell email accounts, phantom truckers, supply-chain fraud and one seriously bewildered cargo freight broker. Interviews and emails shared with The New York Times tell the story of just one instance of “strategic theft,” a growing corner of the criminal world that the F.B.I. has said accounts for some $30 billion in losses a year — with food being among the top targets.

The precious sweets landed safely enough in California, and were trucked about 30 miles across Los Angeles County to a temporary storage facility in South El Monte, run by a company called Japan Crate Acquisition. After weeks of chugging across the vast Pacific, they just needed to make the remaining leg of their journey to Bokksu’s warehouse in Carlstadt, N.J. — and then into the hands of avid candy fans.

That’s where Shane Black came in.

Mr. Black, who runs a freight brokering company called Freight Rate Central in Sarasota, Fla., is part of an invisible army of professionals who coordinate and marshal the fleets of trucks that crisscross the country carrying everything from chickens to smartphones. For this job, Bokksu would pay him about $13,000.

Mr. Black got to it. He posted the job on a trucking board that is something like a Craigslist for freight. Someone named Tristan with HCH Trucking accepted the job (though he was using a Gmail account), and said he would have the shipment picked up shortly.

On Aug. 9, Tristan wrote in an email, “Hey man, The first one is loaded and rolling, the second one we’ll pick it up tomorrow first thing in the morning.”