Call it the case of the stolen sneakers.
Thieves have made off with nearly 3,000 pairs of Nike’s latest Air Jordan shoes set to show up in Midwest stores later this month. The retail value of the heist: nearly half a million dollars.
A tip led police to a trailer full of the $175 sneakers in Kansas City, Kan., on Monday night. Officials concluded that bandits had stolen about 2,800 of the 3,800 Jordans the trailer had originally contained, said Carolyn Wu, a Nike spokeswoman.
In recent weeks, police received reports of Kansas City high schoolers sporting the shoes — white with royal blue soles and no laces.
“Obviously, we arent happy that the product is out on the market” before schedule, she said Wednesday.
Nike had theft insurance on the shoes, which have a wholesale value of about $350,000, Wu said.
Police have questioned as many as 10 people seen wearing the sneakers. Street dealers were selling them for $10 to $50 a pair, according to Sporting Goods Intelligence.
On Wednesday, officials said a 42-year-old Kansas City man was charged with felony theft in connection with the heist, according to the Kansas City Star. The man allegedly purchased more than 30 pairs of the Air Jordans knowing they had been stolen, but detectives think he had nothing to do with the theft of the trailer, the newspaper said.
The Air Jordan has been Nike’s best-selling sneaker. The shoe’s annual launch has created long lines of customers in years past. Several years ago, Nike moved the release dates to weekends after parents and schools complained of students skipping class to wait in line at shoe stores. In some cases, the popularity of Air Jordans has led to teenagers killing each other to get a pair.
An initial version of the Air Jordan XVIII shoes debuted in retail stores last month, and about 70 percent in big retail chains such as Foot Locker have sold out, according to Nike officials. The version stolen in the Midwest was a second color offering.
The trailer that contained the stolen shoes was discovered missing last week. A train had carried the trailer from California to a Kansas City railroad yard, arriving Feb. 17. The trailer stayed at the yard until Feb. 25, when a Shaw Container truck picked up the load and headed toward the Foot Locker distribution center in Junction City, Kan.
Thieves might have stolen the shoes as early as Feb. 26, said David Tattershall, president of Shaw Container. Tattershall told The Kansas City Star that a similar heist took place in 1998, when thieves stole a trailer of shoes headed to the same Foot Locker distribution center.
“Im sure there are contingency plans, and security is working on ways to prevent this from happening again,” said Wu, the Nike spokeswoman.