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Former FedEx Ground Senior Manager Sentenced in $3.25M Stolen-Goods Scheme

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A former senior manager of a FedEx Ground facility in Delaware was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Thursday and ordered to pay back more than $1.1 million and forfeit over $1.8 million in property for his involvement in a decadelong stolen-goods scheme.

Joseph Kukta, 45, of Laurel, Delaware, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and one count of tax evasion in the U.S. District Court of Maryland in February 2020.

Prosecutors say that from 2009 to 2019, Kukta used his position as a senior manager at the Seaford, Delaware, FedEx facility to steal millions of dollars' worth of goods and merchandise.

"FedEx Ground does not tolerate illegal activity of any kind and expects all employees to act with the highest ethical standards," Dana Hardek, a spokesperson for FedEx Ground, said in a statement to FreightWaves. "We cooperated fully with law enforcement throughout this criminal investigation."

Court documents state that Kukta focused mainly on stealing bulk electronics and other high-end products intended for a Walmart distribution facility in Smyrna, Delaware, as well as packages scheduled to be delivered to other companies.

Prosecutors state that Kukta used the FedEx Ground computer system and his inside knowledge to identify particular items or shipments that "he wanted to steal due to their value." After the goods were loaded onto FedEx trailers, he would return during off-hours to the facility and retrieve the items from the trailers.

After FedEx (NYSE: FDX) inadvertently made Kukta aware of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation in June 2019, he emptied out all of the stolen items from a rented storage facility and sold the goods at an auction house in Delaware, according to prosecutors.

He also failed to report more than $600,000 from his scheme as income to the IRS, according to court filings.

How the scheme worked

According to his plea agreement, Kukta would resell the stolen goods from the FedEx facility for approximately 50% of the retail price to co-defendant Saurabh Chawla, 36, of Aurora, Colorado, who was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison in September.

Chawla pleaded guilty to conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen goods, and tax evasion in April 2021, according to court filings.

Prosecutors allege that Kukta sent Chawla a weekly list of available goods and merchandise and had the goods shipped to one of Chawla's relatives in Maryland. Over a 10-year-period, Chawla purchased stolen goods valued at over $3 million, according to court documents.

Click for more articles by Clarissa Hawes.

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