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‘Unique heist’ of nearly 900 pairs of shoes brings probation and $130,000 bill

Luis Cano, Jr. of Illinois was charged with stealing boxes of Merrell shoes from a tractor-trailer near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in August of 2018.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Chicago man who admitted to stealing nearly 900 pairs of Wolverine Worldwide athletic shoes was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay nearly $130,000 in restitution.

“That’s a fairly unique heist in the annals of our office,’’ Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said.

Luis Cano, Jr., 47, was charged with stealing boxes of Merrell shoes from a tractor-trailer at a Cascade Township business in August of 2018. Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide is listed as the victim.

"Multiple suspects using multiple cargo vans entered the property of Forward Air'' on Kraft Avenue SE near Gerald R. Ford International Airport, court records show. In all, 883 pairs of shoes were taken.

Cano was arrested more than a year after the thefts, based on evidence collected by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.  

Becker said while having that many shoes stolen may be unique, this type of property crime is not.

“They sell them, they trade them, do whatever they can to move stolen goods,’’ Becker said. “We’re seeing a lot more stolen property showing up on Craigslist and your online services.’’

Several suspects from Illinois were identified as part of the investigation, including Cano. Becker said it is not uncommon to see crime rings coming to western Michigan from other cities and states.

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“It’s pretty common to see people from other areas coming into Grand Rapids to engage in this – any kind of criminal behavior,’’ Becker said. “We’re on the corridor between Detroit and Chicago.’’

Police have had contact with Cano before. In March of 2018, deputies questioned him after he was found walking along Kraft Avenue SE near the airport. Three others who were with him took off running. A cargo van was found in the area with burglary tools inside, according to a police report.

On the night the shoes were stolen, a suspicious vehicle report was taken at nearby Davenport University. In that Aug. 5, 2018 report, an unoccupied cargo van bearing an Illinois license plate was found in the parking lot. It was the same cargo van linked to Cano back in March.

“An email address for Luis Cano was obtained and a Google search warrant was drafted,’’ Kent County Sheriff’s Detective Paul VanRhee wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “The device linked to Luis Cano’s email address searched for the theft location on the night of the theft and was in the area of the theft that night as well.’’

Kent County Sheriff’s Lt. Joel Roon said the investigation involved input from local and federal agencies, Illinois State Police, Davenport University as well as private security. 

Others connected to the theft are being investigated by Illinois authorities, Roon said.

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A warrant was authorized in September of 2019 charging Cano with larceny of more than $20,000 in shoe cargo. The offense is a 10-year felony.  Cano was booked into the Kent County Jail on Oct. 23.

He pleaded guilty in January to a reduced larceny change, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

A Kent County judge, noting Cano’s cooperation with police, placed him on probation for five years and credited him with 135 days in jail. Cano was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and is on the hook for $129,800 in restitution.

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