Illinois Man Charged In 21-Ton Cheese Heist
A man faces the cheesiest of criminal charges in New Jersey.
Veniamin Balika, 34, of Plainfield, Ill., was accused of stealing 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese from a Wisconsin cheese company. He was arrested at a Bergen County rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike on Monday, the result of a joint investigation with the Saddle Brook New Jersey Police Department and the New Jersey State Police.
"He was charged with receiving stolen property and fencing," New Jersey State Police Sergeant Adam Grossman told ABCNews.com. Balika allegedly attempted to sell the load of 1,135 cases of cheese at the rest area.
Kevin Everhart, 50, owner of Pasture Pride Cheese in Wisconsin, where the cheese was from, said he did not realize the cheese had been stolen. "He came in with the proper paperwork," Everhart told ABCNews.com. "He came in as if he was picking up a shipment."
Everhart said that it is up to the insurance company to decide what will be done with the cheese manufactured by K & K Cheese in Cashton, Wis. The retail value of the cheese is approximately $200,000.
Grossman said that state police have encountered many similar wacky cases. "Can't recall the theft of Muenster cheese," he said.
The cheese and truck trailer are currently stored at an impound lot.
Balika posted bail and was released on Wednesday from a Bergen County jail.
If the cheese passes New Jersey health inspections, it could be donated to charity.