Anatomy of a Theft: How $182,000 of Inventory Disappeared

Here’s an actual case history that resulted in a distributor losing over $180,000 of inventory. The methodology was simple, yet effective. By taking advantage of this company’s rapid growth and lax security controls (both of which created opportunity), a devious checker disproved the old axiom that crime doesn’t pay. Reality check: crime pays quite well, which is why it occurs so frequently.


This distributor’s trucks would be loaded during the night shift. In the morning, company drivers would make their deliveries.

When this company shipped product, labels would be applied to the outside of each case picked. Management felt comfortable that extra cases being placed onto trucks would be noticed because they would not have an affixed label. In actuality, it wasn’t difficult to circumvent the system.

By printing duplicate labels, (if questioned, the checker would claim that some of the original labels did not print well, were damaged, or lost) he was able to have extra, unmanifested boxes placed onto the trucks of the drivers he was working in collusion with.  These truckers were able to sell the overloaded product at a steep discount and still make a handsome profit. In no time, the three employees were pocketing more than $10,000 a month in cash.

Management had no idea that they were losing this quantity of product until they took an inventory. The Director of Distribution initially balked at the possibility of theft. However, when the results of the next inventory indicated even more shrinkage, he realized that he could no longer remain in denial.


(1) Although this company had purchased an expensive video system, the dishonest employees knew that no one ever watched the monitors or viewed recorded activity. Additionally, the cameras were not positioned strategically, nor was the right equipment purchased. The bottom line was that the video system didn’t prevent, or even slow down, the ongoing theft activity.

(2) The company failed to provide a risk-free way for employees to report confidential tips. Management assumed that their “open door policy” would be sufficient for workers to report illegal activity.

It was later determined that other workers knew that this checker was stealing, but kept this information to themselves. They were concerned about their identities being leaked if they confided in company executives. Only after the dishonest workers were apprehended did the employees come forward and reveal what they had known all along. If this company had an outsourced 800 tip-line that offered employees complete anonymity, the employees said they would have reported the dishonest checker.

(3) The company did not have an effective security auditing program that prevented and detected shipping dock collusion. Had they maintained periodic monitoring of their drivers and checkers via unannounced security audits, the thieves would have probably been exposed long before the thefts mushroomed into a six figure loss.