Del. man sentenced for stealing more than $3.25 million worth of goods from FedEx shipments and tax evasion

BALTIMORE, Md. – A Delaware man will spend nearly four years behind bars for tax evasion and interstate transportation of stolen goods.

45-year-old Joseph Kukta of Laurel, Delaware, has been sentenced to a total of 42 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release in connection with his theft and resale of merchandise being shipped through a commercial mail service. The judge also ordered Kukta to pay just over $1.1 million in restitution and forfeiture of over $1.8 million.

According to his plea agreement, between 2007 and July 2019, Kukta worked as a Senior Manager at the FedEx facility in Seaford, where he oversaw all operational aspects of the facility, supervised over 100 employees and contractors, and earned an annual salary of more than $92,000. The facility handled all the FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery packages passing through the Delmarva Peninsula.

We’re told Kukta admitted to stealing packages shipped via FedEx and resold the items to co-defendant Saurabh Chawla at approximately 50% of the item’s retail price, from 2009 to June 2019. Kukta then transported the stolen items using his vehicles and trailers, to a relative of Chawla who lived in Maryland.

From 2009 to 2019, Kukta received more than $1.8 million in illegal proceeds for selling stolen goods that were worth at least $3,250,000.

His plea agreement detailed that Kukta stole packages containing bulk retail goods and merchandise shipped by suppliers including Apple and other high-end manufactured products intended for delivery to a Walmart Distribution Center in Smyrna. Starting in 2012, Kukta’s theft of packages became more frequent and consistent, sometimes occurring on a weekly basis. He reportedly identified packages he would steal by accessing FedEx computer systems and reviewing packages that had been loaded onto a FedEx trailer awaiting delivery to the Walmart Distribution Center. He selected specific packages which he believed, based on the shippers of the packages, contained high-end electronics or other merchandise of value that could be easily resold.

In 2018, Kukta also started stealing packages from FedEx trailers that were located for delivery to a retail store in Rehoboth Beach. He reportedly went to the facility on Sundays, holidays, or other times when employees were not at the facility, and took the packages he previously identified from the trailers. He would turn off the lights at the facility and block certain surveillance cameras with cardboard boxes and other objects to avoid being seen. He would then load the stolen packages into his truck or vehicles driven by FedEx contractors and parked at the facility, then drove to his rented storage unit in Seaford, where he unloaded and stored the items.

As stated in his plea agreement, on June 5, 2019, Kukta learned that law enforcement had subpoenaed surveillance footage from the FedEx facility in Seaford. Roughly two weeks later, Kukta went to the storage unit, grabbed the remaining stolen items, and sold that merchandise at an auction house in Lincoln, Delaware.

Kukta also admitted to evading paying income taxes on the proceeds of the scheme by failing to report that income on his annual joint federal income tax returns, causing a tax loss to the United States of $660,439. Kukta provided false information to two banks when they questioned why he was receiving money from a company being controlled by Chawla. Kukta falsely told bank representatives that he had been selling items from his father’s estate. He also provided false information to the IRS during a correspondence audit, claiming that the items he had sold on eBay during 2014 were from his father’s estate, not the sale of the stolen goods.

His co-conspirator, 36-year-old Saurabh Chawla, was previously sentenced to 66 months in federal prison on charges of conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen goods, and tax evasion. Chawla was also ordered to pay $713,619 in restitution to the IRS, and ordered to forfeit a 2013 Tesla Model S and over $2.3 million from accounts held in his name and the sale of property in Aurora, Colorado.

Categories: Crime, Delaware, Local News