Thinking Ahead–Letter from Chaille: Have the Terrorists Won Already?
Publisher, Chaille Brindley, provides an update on the notorious pallet scammer who has defrauded companies across the country and is now using U.S. Foodservice as a fake front to obtain pallet loads and trucking services.
By Chaille M. Brindley
Date Posted: 3/1/2011
The unforeseen impact of the domestic war on terror is the strain on resources to apprehend and convict a wide variety of other criminal activity, especially fraud and less violent crime. Why am I writing about this topic? Specifically, because the pallet industry has become a causality of our legal system and its unwillingness to tackle fraud. Specifically, I am calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and federal prosecutors to do something about a guy who has allegedly defrauded trucking and pallet companies out of hundreds of thousands if not a million dollars or more over the last eight plus years.
Anyone who has regularly followed my column knows that I have written about Larry Alvin Harris in the past. According to numerous witnesses, Harris allegedly has pulled off the biggest scam to ever hit the pallet industry.
Posing as a legitimate pallet buyer, Harris allegedly contracts to buy truckloads of #1 GMAs for market price or greater and then sells them in another location for the market rate. He makes money by never paying the bill for the used pallets or trucking services. Currently, Harris is using the identify of U.S. Foodservice as a cover, according to a number of recent victims. Since U.S. Foodservice is one of the largest foodservice operators in the country, this cover works well to pass most credit checks.
Kandice Blank, general manager of Resource Recovery located in Watertown, Wis. said that her company was hit for seven truckloads of pallets last year. She said that Harris is a “smooth operator” who successfully used the stolen identity of U.S. Foodservice to pass credit checks.
Over the years, Harris has allegedly pulled off similar scams under the names of Bob Harris, Larry “Bo” Harris, Al Hicks, Alvin Harris and L.B. Harris. Harris most recently used the business names U.S. Foodservice and North Star Distribution, while previous incidents involved Cherokee Distribution Center and Southeastern Warehousing, Inc. He generally provides either a Chattanooga, Tenn. or Rossville, Ga. address.
Incidents have been reported in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, and most recently Arizona and California.
Kandice said that when she talked with the FBI, she was told they would only be interested if the individual had scammed a half million dollars or more. She added, “I would definitely like to see the federal authorities go after this guy.”
Representatives from a trucking company in Phoenix said that Harris has even come up with an explanation for why you can find his name connected with a scam if you do a Google search. This person claimed that Harris is telling people that his identity was stolen and that he is a reputable employee working for U.S. Foodservice.
Currently, police in Wisconsin are looking into Harris’ activities. Statewide authorities may seek to connect a number of cases to bring significant legal action against Harris. Anyone in Wisconsin who has been impacted by the scam should contact the Watertown Police Department at 920-261-9710, ask for officer Jeff Meloy. Affected pallet and trucking companies should file a police report with the local department in their area.
What bothers me the most about this story is that I keep on writing about this guy, and he keeps on getting away with it. The FBI doesn’t seem interested even though I have personally contacted two different field agencies about it. I was basically told that unless the guy was a terrorist, suspected of a violent crime or stole more than $500,000, the federal authorities aren’t likely to do much. When I tell them that he has scammed people out of at least that much money, I get this whole sorry song that federal authorities are tasked with terrorist monitoring first and will get around to it if possible. Of course, nothing ever happens.
I want to know why do I pay my taxes if they are not going to protect interstate commerce and track down non-violent criminals? The federal government is the only entity with the power to really stop this guy for more than a year or so.
Local authorities are limited in what they can do because the pallet scammer works across interstate lines, which can make it difficult to nab him or convict for more than one or two offenses. Pallet companies also bear some of the responsibility for the situation. When we put out an SOS for people to come testify against Harris a few years ago, only one pallet recycler showed up. Basically, Harris walked because they couldn’t make much of a case without witnesses. This happened even though I personally talked with dozens of recyclers who had been scammed through the years.
So – shame on the pallet and trucking companies that let this kind of thing happen. Or even more shame on the pallet guys who do business with Harris by acquiring loads of pallets from him. You may be getting a deal, but you are buying something that was obtained under false pretenses. For some, this may be an innocent mistake. For others, they just don’t care about the source. All they see are truckloads of cheap pallets.
While I understand the need to protect ourselves against terrorists and other violent threats, I wonder if the terrorists have won already if our law enforcement agencies are distracted from maintaining order in other areas. Pallets are difficult for people to understand. Nobody makes their career off a pallet sting at the FBI. But these little things lead to a deterioration of civil order. It is called the broken windows theory. Little crimes lead to bigger crimes. Allowing rampant fraud seems to be a good way to unravel a capitalist society build on interstate commerce.
At the end of the day, I want to say to the FBI and federal prosecutors, DO YOUR JOB! Or else the terrorists have won already because our society will decay from within.
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