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Crime

Secret criminal billionaires: Big-rig cargo thefts worth $$$ are hitting L.A.'s port

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Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Huge big-rigs are quietly vanishing from the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach regularly, their cargo whisked away by sophisticated crime teams using regional leaders, fencers, "lumpers" and drivers who hijack the entire big-rig container, each stuffed with goods worth between $12,000 -- in, say, Fruit of the Loom Underwear -- to as much as $3 million -- in, say, iPhones. That's per big-rig container.

These massive heists have been a dirty, not-so-well-kept secret that the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and their powerful harbor commissions who oversee the two gigantic ports, don't want to admit to. The pols don't want the public to know the ports leak like sieves and that, in this post 9-11 era, security is about as tight as a Los Angeles city manhole cover.

Anyway, Arnold Schwarzenegger over the last day or so signed Senate Bill 24 to let the FBI and others continue to closely track, separately from other kinds of thefts, the lifting of containers, as the locals and the feds try to figure out how these criminal rings are so easily getting past security at the ports (well, insider corruption comes to mind).

The numbers are really shocking:

The two local and long-competing ports, L.A. and Long Beach, are the No. 1 and No. 2 busiest ports in America for moving containers that arrive from foreign countries jammed with stuff.

The FBI says $15 billion to $30 billion gets heisted nationwide each year -- that's that they know of -- and the math appears to suggest that about $5 billion to $10 billion of that is vanishing right here in Los Angeles. Every year.

Among other things, I guess this means that we have a few Los Angeles billionaires who are not exactly listed on the Forbes 400, and whose names probably change about as often as Leonardo DiCaprio's did in "Catch Me if You Can."

This is scary stuff. It's unnerving that a large number of jobs related to the port involve "a specialist who is expert at foiling the anti-theft locks on truck trailers," as the legislative analysis of the bill Arnold signed seems to suggest.

The ports are highly sensitive places filled with gigantic oil tanks, big piles of chemicals, and other explosive materials. If a bunch of  jerks without a college degrees can regularly heist big, carefully locked up, supposedly guarded shipping containers, that means a bunch of jerks with explosive devices can sally inside these sensitive areas.

Here's hoping the FBI, LAPD and the rest form a task force in Los Angeles to track the data this law is helping to collect, and start unearthing these heist teams. Right now, such task forces are located only in Houston, New York, Newark, San Juan, Mephis and Miami (which has two task forces because Miami is our extra-special corrupt American city.)

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