The Hamptons Police Department reported last week that they had infiltrated a ring of black market Valentine’s hearts dealers and apprehended dozens of people involved in the criminal fleecing of the beloved heart-shaped candies.
The crime ring came into existence when the legal supply of Valentine’s hearts dried up. “Last year the company that manufactured the bulk of Valentine’s hearts sold in this area went out of business,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “Local shop owners were slow to understand the situation.”
That’s when criminals involved in black marketeering saw their chance, Hirsch says. “Before the market could react to that news, these wise guys went and glommed up all of the candies they could get their hands on. We’re talking tons and tons of Valentine’s heart candies.”
According to Hirsch, the group formed a syndicate and began offering the candy hearts to local candy stores and pharmacies at vastly inflated prices. “Let’s face it, these are not high-end candies,” Hirsch says. “You may as well be eating chalk. But tradition is tradition, and shop owners were desperate to have them on the shelves for the holiday, so they paid the extortionate prices.” By February 13, Hirsch says, Valentine’s hearts were fetching $100 per pound.
Meanwhile, the Hamptons Police Black Market Undercover Investigations Unit (HPBMUIU) had inserted several agents into the heart supply chain and was developing evidence to incriminate not only the underlings but also the kingpins of the operation. “We were deeply imbedded, and they didn’t have a clue,” Hirsch says.
“These were some pretty tough customers, but as time went on, they started to get really sloppy.”
Hirsch cites numerous incidents, many of which were caught on surveillance video or tape, where the criminals spoke openly and plainly of what they were up to, identifying their bosses by name and bragging about their success in gouging shop owners for supplies of Valentine’s hearts. “It kind of turns your stomach to watch this stuff,” Hirsch says. “They were treating this like it was just a big game—but this is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about.”
Finally, on the evening of Thursday, February 14 the police made the determination that they had gathered all the evidence needed to make cases against the black marketeers, and they began to roll up the operation. “We needed to nab these guys before they absconded with their ill-gotten gains,” Hirsch explains.
Police arrested 33 suspects and impounded an undetermined amount of cash. “We caught these guys, and we’re confident that we have the evidence to put them behind bars for a long, long time.” The suspects are being held without bail.