Former FedEx manager pleads guilty in package theft scheme

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — A former FedEx manager in Delaware is facing up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing and reselling merchandise being shipped by the company.

Joseph Kukta, 43, of Laurel, Delaware, pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of interstate transportation of stolen goods and tax evasion. A federal judge in Baltimore scheduled his sentencing for June 18.

Kukta worked as a senior manager at the FedEx facility in Seaford, Delaware, from 2007 through July 2019. The facility handles all FedEx ground and home delivery packages passing through the Delmarva peninsula.

Kukta admitted that from 2009 through June 2019, he stole packages being shipped via FedEx and resold the items to a person currently living in Colorado at roughly half their retail price.

Prosecutors said Kukta then transported the stolen items, using his vehicles and trailers, to the Colorado resident's father, living in Maryland. From 2012 through 2019, the Colorado resident made 275 payments to Kukta totaling more than $1.8 million for stolen merchandise worth about $3.6 million, authorities said.

Kukta also admitted that he evaded paying more than $660,000 in income taxes on the proceeds of the scheme. To conceal the income, he provided false information to two banks when questioned why he was receiving money from a company controlled by the Colorado resident, telling bank representatives he had been selling items from his father's estate.

According to his plea agreement, Kukta stole packages containing bulk retail goods and merchandise shipped by suppliers including Sony, Panasonic, Apple and others, that were intended for delivery to a Walmart distribution center in Smyrna, Delaware.

Authorities said Kukta selected specific packages that he believed contained high-end electronics or other merchandise of value that could be easily resold. In 2018, he also began to steal packages from FedEx trailers intended for delivery to a Nike store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Kukta would steal the packages on Sundays, holidays, or other times when employees were not at the Seaford facility, having previously identified which FedEx trailers to target, authorities said. Kukta attempted to avoid detection by turning off the lights at the facility and blocking surveillance cameras with cardboard boxes and other objects.

Prosecutors said Kukta loaded the stolen packages into his SUV or into vehicles operated by FedEx contractors, then stashed them at a rented storage unit in Seaford.

After learning that authorities had subpoenaed surveillance footage from the Seaford facility, Kukta retrieved the remaining stolen items in his storage unit and sold them at an auction house in Lincoln, Delaware, authorities said.

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