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Black Gold

The Great Office Supply Caper

The Great Office Supply Caper

Photograph by Jonathan Knowles

Quick … hide the toner! The New York Times reported yesterday that prosecutors are accusing a former employee of law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson of stealing thousands of cartridges of copy machine toner, worth more than $376,000, and reselling them on the black market over the past two years. The man, Adrian Rodriguez, allegedly sold the cartridges, which had a market value of $80 to $259 each, for $10 for black ink and $15 for color ink.

Printing toner cartridges, which fetch a high price compared with, say, ballpoint pens, are a popular target of office thieves, along with big-ticket items such as electronics and other equipment. (The Bic ballpoint pens in my office retail for a measly $4 for a box of 60, which is barely worth the effort.) And Rodriguez isn’t the first to try to get away with some workplace toner thievery:

• In 2011, former Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center employee Marque Gumbs was convicted of stealing more than $1.5 million worth of printing toner cartridges from the New York hospital and was sentenced to seven years in prison, reported the New York Times.

• In 2007, Michael D. Peller, an account executive at stationary supply company Aos Acquisition in New Jersey, admitted to stealing 30,000 toner cartridges worth $1.72 million from 2003 to 2005, reported the Record.

• In September 2011, an Australian print shop worker in Sydney was charged with lifting 23,000 printer toner cartridges worth about $2.4 million from his employer, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Police also found 313 cartridges in his home that were allegedly stolen.

So the next time your office mysteriously runs out of toner, know this: It’s probably just ’cause you’re printing too many e-mails. Or your cubicle mate is a criminal mastermind.


Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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