We’ve covered cheese crime before, but cheese smuggling? We’ve seen this happen with the Russian food import ban, but the phenomenon is popping up closer to home. Different from its run-of-the-mill crime counterparts—like cheese hustlers, nacho cheese bandits, and the burglars who stole nearly $1M worth of Parmigiano Reggiano—these thieves were not technically stealing. The Ontario criminals were charged after purchasing cheese in America, smuggling it across the border into Canada, and selling it at prices much lower than Canadian cheese wholesale.
Involvement in this large scale cheese smuggling scandal recently placed a police officer behind bars. Though just recently convicted, Scott Heron was charged with the crime back in September 2012, when he was indicted for buying cases of cheese and bringing them across the border, undeclared and without paying duty. After making it to Canada, Heron planned to distribute the cheese to restaurants, accepting large profits—an estimated $165,000.
There were three smugglers involved in this cheese crime, dubbed the “mozzarella mafia” because they sought out pizza parlors to traffic the merchandise. One such target was Bob Abumeeiz of Windsor, Ontario, who reported to the CBC that he was asked to buy smuggled cheese from the US, with prices up to a third less than they are in Canada. With cheese prices rising a few percent each year, there is a clear motivation for this crime, as well as a big payout.
As Niagara This Week reports, Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff McGuire backs the cheese integrity of other members of the force: “The facts upon which Scott Heron was convicted are disturbing and are not reflective of the men and women who work in accordance with their oath every single day.” Heron is now suspended from the police force.
Though smuggling cheese may seem silly, and there is actually a lot of money to be made in illicit cheese, one thing is certain: #CheeseCrime shouldn’t pay.