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Saddle Brook police seize stolen cheese worth $200,000

Photo Credit: Saddle Brook PD

ANOTHER CVP SCOOP: A Saddle Brook detective sergeant uncovered a $200,000 stolen shipment of muenster cheese from Wisconsin that authorities said was destined for sale on the black market.

Detective Sgt. Thomas Johnson was investigating a report of an attempted truck arson that led him to the Vince Lombardi rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike in Ridgefield, where surveillance was set up on Tuesday, Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight.

Johnson, along with Detective Capt. Vincent Laurentino, worked with the New Jersey State Police Cargo Theft Unit and discovered that the 42,000-pound load (as in: 21 tons) was swiped from K & K Cheese Company of Cashton, Wisconsin, Kugler said.

Stored in a refrigerated trailer attached to a 2005 Volvo tractor at the rest stop, the shipment was headed to a retailer in Texas, who on Monday reported never receiving it.

Police quickly moved in an arrested the driver, Veniamin K. Balika of Plainfield, IL, who Kugler said “used a fraudulent bill of lading to pick up the cheese.”

His plan “to sell it to anyone interested,” the chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

Balika was being held on $25,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with receiving and fencing stolen property.

The cheese, meanwhile, was seized and the trailer impounded.

A representative of K & K said the company “cannot guarantee the cheese hasn’t been tampered with,” so it isn’t requesting its return.

However, if health inspectors deem it safe, it will be donated to charity, Kugler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

The chief praised Sgt. Johson’s “proficient investigatory skills and intuition,” as well as his “ability to network with other agencies,” including the State Police.

PHOTO ABOVE: Courtesy Saddle Brook PD

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