Thieves make off with startup wholesale company's inventory

·2 min read

May 31—The burglars who broke into a startup wholesale company's warehouse on West Seventh Street and drove off with a hefty portion of its inventory wore masks, but may have been fatally careless in what they left behind.

A warehouse maintenance worker discovered the garage door open at UV Distribution & Wholesale, 1704 W. Seventh St., the morning of May 18 and reported the burglary. The warehouse had been ransacked.

"They stole our box truck and a whole lot of boxes," Hisham Al Quammaz told the Globe.

Al Quammaz, who owns a convenience store in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and manages another in Asbury, is one of three partners who started the business a few months ago with the intent of becoming the first wholesale distributor of general merchandise to convenience stores to locate in Joplin.

They had been building up their inventory with plans to start provisioning area stores soon when burglars broke into their warehouse through a back door in the middle of the night, loaded the company's 1997 Ford Econoline box truck with everything from shirts, caps and batteries to vape and CBD products, glass pipes and stun guns, and drove off.

Al Quammaz said the business initially estimated the loss at $500,000, but he now believes it may be somewhat less than that. But it's potentially a big setback for him and his partners.

"If the insurance doesn't cover it, it will be," Al Quammaz told the Globe.

The business had security cameras. But the burglars cut the cord to the DVR connected to the cameras. Al Quammaz said Joplin police initially seemed to be reduced to scouring for clues to the burglars' identities on the footage of surveillance cameras at nearby businesses.

But, after police left, they were surprised to find the DVR discarded in a box behind the business with footage of the burglars still intact.

"What you see on the camera is two (burglars), a man and a woman," Al Quammaz said. "But we think there were more than two."

He said it took the crew a couple of hours to load all they stole into the truck. The two that appear on camera wore masks over their faces. But at one point, the man looked directly at the camera and lifted his mask, revealing his face, he said.

Al Quammaz said he is pleased with the effort Joplin police are making to solve the crime and has hopes they'll manage to recover some of what was taken.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.