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The method used by LAPD to dismantle a complex Nike theft ring

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One would think that most die-hard sneakerheads wouldn’t hesitate to wait hours in line to score the Air Jordan 4 BRED Reimagineds — retailing for $200 but reselling for double that on the collectors market. Some even go as far as writing computer code to snap up limited edition Jordans and other coveted Nikes as soon as they go on sale online. However, a sophisticated theft ring operated by Los Angeles police recently uncovered a scandal involving the theft of millions of dollars worth of shoes in a complex scheme that spanned from a Nike warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee, to a Hollywood apartment building.

Despite only one person being charged in connection with the case, a 37-year-old Tennessee man, the investigation has unveiled a network that allegedly operated in L.A. with the assistance of a Nike employee from the East. The suspected insider has not faced charges, leading to speculation about the involvement of others in the scheme, including potential collaboration with local retailers. The case has sent shockwaves through the L.A. sneaker community, leaving collectors questioning the integrity of their sources.

The LAPD announced the seizure of a significant cache of stolen Nike gear during a news conference, shedding light on the ring’s operations. Since June 2023, the ring has been responsible for the theft of over $2 million in Nike products, according to a search warrant filed by LAPD detectives. The warrant revealed that the thefts remained ongoing and widespread, outlining how the suspects exploited loopholes in Nike’s distribution system, starting from the main hub in Memphis.

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The elaborate scheme involved the creation of fake shipping labels and collusion with UPS and Nike employees to redirect cartons of shoes to various locations in L.A. The investigation uncovered intercepted shipments with concealed original shipping labels and revealed the clandestine nature of the sneaker black market, which has flourished in recent years, generating billions in sales globally.

Detectives discovered how the theft ring intercepted packages along the supply chain, hijacking deliveries and swapping addresses with shipping companies. Nike’s internal investigation prompted the collaboration with the LAPD, leading to the identification of key players involved in the scheme, including Roy Lee Harvey of Memphis. Harvey’s connections and activities implicated a larger network of accomplices, raising questions about the extent of knowledge within the sneaker world.

The subsequent arrest and charging of Harvey with receiving stolen property shed light on the scale of the operation, leading to the discovery of a warehouse in Hawthorne containing approximately $5 million worth of stolen Nike products. LAPD Chief Michel Moore highlighted the magnitude of the seizure, emphasizing the impact on the sneaker resale industry and the implications for businesses like Project Blitz, whose owner was not implicated in the investigation.

The fallout from the case has reverberated through the online sneaker community, sparking debates about accountability and ethical sourcing practices. Some have defended major resellers, acknowledging the challenges of verifying the legitimacy of merchandise in a competitive market where insider connections can dictate access to exclusive releases. The uncertainty surrounding the origins of coveted sneakers has raised awareness about the risks of dealing in stolen goods.

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As the investigation continues, authorities are cracking down on illicit activities in the sneaker resale market, working with online platforms to prevent the listing of stolen merchandise. Despite efforts to regulate the industry, some offenders have adapted their methods, resorting to alternative avenues for selling stolen goods. The evolving landscape of the sneaker black market underscores the need for vigilance and transparency in a lucrative but increasingly controversial industry.

Ultimately, the LAPD’s crackdown on the sophisticated Nike theft ring has exposed the intricate web of criminal activity permeating the sneaker world, prompting a reassessment of industry practices and ethical standards. The case serves as a cautionary tale for collectors, retailers, and enthusiasts alike, highlighting the importance of integrity and accountability in a market driven by passion, profit, and peril.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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