STANWOOD, Wash. — Authorities said they have arrested a suspected thief accused of posing as a Safeway employee to steal hundreds of thousands in crab from a Stanwood area storage facility.
"This was not a one-time thing. This was an ongoing conspiracy that involves multi-states and multiple jurisdictions and a lot of money," said Robert Hammer, the special agent in charge of overseeing Homeland Security investigations operations in the Pacific Northwest.
David Subil was arrested for allegedly stealing and transporting more than $700,000 worth of king and snow crab, according to a criminal complaint filed Feb. 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Authorities said Subil made several pickups of crab from North Star Cold Storage in Stanwood, which stores and ships products for other companies, under the guise of a Safeway employee.
Subil is accused of operating fake email accounts pretending to be multiple Safeway employees. The criminal complaint said Subil used the email accounts to message the owner of San Francisco-based Arctic Foods convincing him to authorize two separate shipments of $432,000 and $296,388 in crab.
The first order contained 300 cases of 6/9 count red king crab and 300 cases of 4/7 count king crab. The second order contained 360 cases of king crab legs and claws, 40 cases of Opilio snow crab and 240 cases of 6/9 count red king crab legs and claws.
After the second order was picked up, the owner realized that he overcharged Subil and tried calling him back to let him know of the error but he did not get ahold of him, according to the criminal complaint. After reaching out to Safeway, the owner learned that Subil did not work for the company.
"Both the distributor in San Francisco and the business here in Washington, Stanwood, discovered that they were being defrauded essentially," said Nick Brown, the U.S. attorney for western Washington. "They were getting orders for seafood. They would try to call to verify certain portions of the transaction, and none of the phone numbers were working."
Subil picked up two shipments of crab on Jan. 18 and 20 using a fake alias and a fake trucking company. Both shipments took fewer than two hours. Investigators later confirmed that rental information showed that the trucks were rented by Subil.
The suspected crab thief had another pickup scheduled for Jan. 25 but deputies were nearby in unmarked vehicles monitoring the situation. Employees loaded a product with lesser value into Subil's order. The truck was pulled over near Tacoma, and police arrested the driver on suspicion of forgery and possessing a fraudulent bill.
On Feb. 1, investigators discovered that a Florida seafood company was selling crab that appeared to be from Arctic Foods and was priced below market value. Photos showed the lot numbers matched those from Subil's first order, according to the criminal complaint.
The company's owner told investigators he paid Global Supply P&P, which is registered to Subil, $144,750 for the king crab.
On Feb. 2, an email from Subil indicated the first invoice would be paid Feb. 17. However, no payments had been made as of that date.
Subil arranged a fourth shipment from Arctic Foods, and investigators installed GPS devices on the packages. They tracked the product to a Florida company that provides construction and junk removal services. Investigators believe Subil dumped the material when he discovered it didn't contain king crab.
On Feb. 18, investigators say Subil booked a one-way plane ticket to Colombia but he never got on the plane. Subil was arrested in Miami.