New York police ran a sting operation this week to catch the bad guys who stole 900 boxes of frozen eels — and somebody took the bait.
Three men were arrested on Monday, accused of stealing more than $500,000 worth of frozen eels from a shipping terminal in Elizabeth, N.J.
New York City police caught the men selling the cases of the frozen delicacies from a street corner in Brooklyn’s Chinatown area.
The men obviously knew their market. According to The New York Post, the area is one of the few places in Brooklyn where people can find eels, guinea hens, rabbits, quail and other Asian delicacies.
The Post reports the area is a hotbed for trafficked goods. “They’re smuggling everything from cigarettes to food. So it doesn’t surprise me at all,” one neighborhood insider told the Post.
The accused — a 39-year-old from Queens and two men from Brooklyn, ages 36 and 51 — allegedly picked up the shipment of 2,000 boxes of eels from the terminal on June 1 by using fake paperwork from the rightful owners of the fish, Mars Global Trading, according to The Associated Press.
The high-end, barbecue-style eels arrived at the terminal in New Jersey from China, The New York Daily News reported.
The jig was up when the rightful owner of the eels saw his product showing up in restaurants and markets around the city and state, police told reporters.
New York police set up a sting operation with the Mars Global Trading owner to catch the thieves. Here’s how it went down.
The owner approached the men outside a dim sum restaurant in Brooklyn and said he wanted to buy a lot of eels. The men took him to the warehouse where they had stashed the stolen goods.
Police recovered 745 boxes at the warehouse and 200 more hidden in a truck, the Gothamist reported. The other stolen boxes were not recovered.
Some New York media reported the eels were worth more than $1 million. Police suggested they were worth $500,000.
“It’s a small company. This could kill the company,” a Mars Global representative told the Daily News. “Unfortunately, we didn’t recover the whole thing. It’s a lot of money.”