Footwear drops: Nike x Sacai Blazer Mid fires up this week’s releases
2015 Published: April 16, 2015 Updated: February 19, 2019  |  WORDS: Hana Kim

Former Nike Employee Who Stole Hundreds of Sneakers Receives No Jailtime

Kyle Yamaguchi, part of a trio that made massive amounts of money reselling stolen sneakers, got away easy with probation and community service. Read the full story here.

Footwear drops: Nike x Sacai Blazer Mid fires up this week’s releases
(from left to right) Jason Keating, Tung Ho and Kyle Yamaguchi (Image via Sole Collector)

The sneaker resale market can be alluring and too hard to resist, turning workers in the industry into criminals. Just last week, former Nike employee Kyle Yamaguchi made the news when he was convicted of stealing more than 630 pairs of rare, valuable Nike sneaker samples which were then resold for thousands of dollars.

Yamaguchi took a cut of the sales, earning about US$200,000, while his accomplice, Tung Ho, pocketed about US$600,000. A third suspect, Jason Keating, played the role of middleman by buying the stolen shoes from Yamaguchi and subsequently putting them up on eBay for exorbitant prices, only to be bought up by die-hard sneakerheads who promptly dropped the dough without batting an eyelid.

Footwear drops: Nike x Sacai Blazer Mid fires up this week’s releases
The resale market is real, with sneakerheads willing to pay US$20,000 for rare sneakers and production samples

The trio’s modus operandi was elaborate: Yamaguchi used his role as Nike’s promotional product manager to order pre-production samples, or “look-sees”, directly from Nike’s factories in China. The prototypes were intended for athletes and sports teams and never meant for sale. When Yamaguchi left the job in January 2012 and was replaced by Ho, the two men conspired to continue the operation. They would sneak the samples off the Nike campus and sell them to Keating, who handled the re-selling bit.

It was only when Nike’s internal security team caught Ho in the act of pilfering sneakers that the whole operation came to light. When the police raided Ho’s residence, they found close to 2,000 pairs of stolen sneakers.

Knowing that the jig was up, Yamaguchi turned the tables on Ho and Keating by cooperating with law enforcement authorities, probably to avoid jail time which could have amounted to five years. Well, it paid off; Yamaguchi was sentenced to five years of probation and 50 hours of voluntary community service. Meanwhile, Ho and Keating have pleaded not guilty, and are yet to stand trial. The case continues.

Sources: Quartz, The Oregon and Business Insider