A former Nike employee pleaded guilty last week to stealing limited-edition sneakers from the company and selling them for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the latest in a recent string of sneaker thefts.
Kyle Yamaguchi illegally sold more than 630 pairs of shoes for almost $US680,000, according to court documents cited by the Oregonian. The scheme involved selling shoes to collectors willing to pay up to $US20,000 a pair for the sneakers.
A Business Insider scan of current shoe listings on eBay found dozens of pairs listed for thousands of dollars, including red Nikes designed by Kanye West selling for almost $US20,000.
Perhaps motivated by these gaudy numbers, Yamaguchi explained to investigators that his scheme involved ordering promotional pairs of shoes known as “Look See” models directly from factories in China and shipping them to a Florida middleman who sold them online, according to an indictment filed last year.
One collector paid $US20,000 on eBay for a pair of limited MVP edition Lebron IX shoes believed to be stolen by Yamaguchi and Ho, according to the Oregonian.
Other high-profile sneaker heists have made headlines in recent years. Last November, a cargo truck company employee in Memphis used his ID to get access to a parking lot and drove away with a truck full of 7,500 pairs of the newest LeBron 12 Nike shoes worth about $US1.5 million, reports ESPN.
Charles Jennings reportedly soon started selling pairs of the sneakers to collectors. When an FBI task force finally busted him a week later, 700 pairs of sneakers were missing. He is currently free on $US75,000 bond.
Yamaguchi began his scheme sometime during his employment at Nike and allegedly handed it off to Tang Ho when the former left the company in 2012. Ho is said by authorities to have become the pointman from then until 2014.
The district attorney agreed to a plea deal with Yamaguchi in December. He was reportedly sentenced last week to five years probation and 50 hours of voluntary community service.
Yamaguchi admitted to working with Ho to bill the shoe orders to different Nike departments in an effort to conceal their theft and then funnel them to Jason Keating, who bought the pairs for a total $US679,650 and sold them in various places including eBay, court documents revealed.
Keating then kicked a percentage of the profits back to both men, according to reports. Yamaguchi, who commanded a 20% cut of sales, made about $US200,000 and Ho pocketed about $US600,000, according to Quartz.
When confronted by Nike about the scheme, Ho reportedly pointed a finger at Yamaguchi, who instantly copped to the plan, handed over reams of evidence to law enforcement and even wore a wire to an exchange with Keating.
Ho was caught smuggling shoes off the company’s Beaverton, Oregon campus and police recovered 1,941 pairs of sneakers and a “large sum of cash” during a March 14, 2014 raid of his home, according to Quartz.
Ho has pleaded not guilty, along with Keating, and has yet to stand trial.
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