Police

Cops Are Dressing Up Like FedEx Guys and Arresting People for Drugs

A little-known agreement allows police officers to seize packages at FedEx sorting centers.

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A federal court ruled this month that evidence of drugs obtained by police from a package at a FedEx sorting center was not seized unconstitutionally, rejecting the defendant's arguments that the seizure violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

At the center of the decision is a little-known agreement allowing law enforcement agencies to confiscate parcels at the shipping behemoth's sorting centers. Police are permitted to take packages only if a drug dog indicates there may be contraband inside. Individual cops, however, determine which packages merit attention, allowing them to zero in on people's property, dress up as FedEx delivery men, and proceed with arrests if they testify that a drug dog alerted them appropriately.

Such was the case with Herbert Green, who had his package singled out at a FedEx sorting center after Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) Detective Antonio Garcia noticed a return label from Brownsville, Texas. That's a "source city for illegal narcotics," the officer said, who was further interested by the parcel's glued seams and the fact that it was a "moving" box. Those get his attention "right away," he testified, because of their material, which he claims are well-suited to shipping drugs.

Upon removing Green's package from the conveyor belt, Garcia had Zina, his K9, inspect the box. She indicated that drugs were present. Garcia then took the package from the FedEx center and had another detective, dressed as a FedEx employee, bring it to Green's home, where officers monitored the premises. After Green returned to his apartment, he placed the box inside and was arrested by the officers in a nearby parking lot shortly thereafter, prior to any of them knowing what was in the package.

Police then entered Green's home and performed a warrantless search of the apartment—going through his trash, his cabinets, even a shoebox. Garcia opened the FedEx package and found marijuana.

Officers subsequently obtained a search warrant to retrieve the materials they saw during their sweep, including two firearms, magazines, a ledger and scale, a bag of marijuana buds, and the shoebox, which contained cannabis residue. Green was ultimately indicted for attempting to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possessing a firearm as a felon. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison after conditionally pleading guilty to possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

In seeking to suppress the evidence, Green argued that Garcia violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when he nabbed Green's package off the FedEx conveyor belt based on its size, glued seams, and return address. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit disagreed: "We conclude that Detective Garcia did not deprive FedEx of custody because he was acting at FedEx's direction," wrote Circuit Judge Leonard Steven Grasz.

Green suggested that this would only have been proper had a FedEx employee been the one to identify the package as suspicious. The court disputed that.

"FedEx can control its own rights. It has Fourth Amendment rights, and it can invite the police in," says Orin Kerr, a law professor at Berkeley. Whether or not Green's constitutional rights were violated turns on the timing, he adds: "Normally it only implicates the sender and receiver of the package's rights if it delays the delivery."

In this case it did not. But the big story here isn't the technical query; it's FedEx's relationship with law enforcement. "It was new to me that there was this program that's so formalized," says Kerr.

"Security is a priority at FedEx," says a spokesperson for the company. "While we do not publicly disclose information about our security processes and procedures, we do work with law enforcement agencies around the U.S."

The agreement evokes Apple's recent announcement that it will scan people's photos for potential child pornography. If they receive a match, they'll send it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit established by Congress. The announcement set off a chorus of privacy alarm bells.

But while the relationship between FedEx and police is far more obscure, is has quietly existed for some time, says John Wesley Hall, an expert in Fourth Amendment law and the former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

"I don't agree with it. The difficulty is that FedEx lets them do that," he tells Reason. "They've always cooperated with law enforcement. Sometimes the cops are dressed like a FedEx driver delivering the package to the house. They've done that forever. And FedEx cooperates with them—even loans them the truck."

That is precisely what happened in Green's case, which, as Hall notes, doesn't raise specific Fourth Amendment objections no matter how unsavory it might be.

The 8th Circuit did rule that the officers violated Green's rights when they conducted their sweep of his home. Police "saw the only item they could seize pursuant to the…warrant, chose not to seize it and exit the premises, and proceeded to walk through the entire apartment for ten to fifteen minutes looking under a mattress, in the kitchen trash can, in kitchen cabinets, and at or in a shoe box," argued Green. The judges agreed. The lower court will now determine whether the officers' subsequent search warrant would have been obtained had the cops not been armed with information gained from illegally rifling through Green's possessions.

"I've sometimes equated what cops do with these things as premature ejaculation," says Hall. "They get so carried away that they decide to do things too soon, and then compromise the quality of their own case by doing that."

KCPD Officer Donna Drake said in an official statement that the department "appreciate[s] working closely with community partners in order to keep Kansas City safe." Yet therein lies the problem with the police-FedEx relationship: It lends itself to abuse, giving cops even more power to fight a drug war that in many ways they already lost. "The cops exploit it," notes Hall. "The problem for the rest of us is what are they doing with others, like UPS, DHL, the Postal Service? It's got to be throughout the system. It's not just FedEx."

NEXT: Body Camera Footage Shows Louisiana Trooper Beating Man with a Flashlight Over a Traffic Violation

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  1. “drug dogs” have as much credibility as the CDC.

    1. That’s what I don’t get.
      Not last year, we had Supreme Court justices actually arguing that a man driving a car registered to someone who has a revoked driver’s license is not sufficient cause to pull someone over to confirm if the driver is the owner.

      In this case, the police had no evidence other than that the box looked like something a drug shipment would use and a dog barked at it, and yet by their own admission, they made an arrest BEFORE confirming that any drugs were present at all. That’s insane. That level of evidence might be sufficient to get a search warrant, but they had no basis to arrest the man on that.

      The fact that they proceeded to trample over the man’s rights without bothering to get a search warrant puts this into a very questionable light.

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      2. Nothing but revenue extortion municipal terrorists.
        The main reason this didn’t get tossed in the first place is the victim got scarred and made a “deal”. Never actually went to trial, where even a BAR Association syndicate member could have torn this one apart ten different ways.
        Still, whoever signed off on that fictitious “warrant”, after the illegal search, should be put on judicial revue and then charged, tried and imprisoned.

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    2. I never trusted those bitches

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    3. Drug dogs don’t have contempt for you; they just want to make their handlers happy.

      The same can’t be said for Fauci, the FDA, or the CDC.

    4. First, the drugs people wish to use are THEIR BUSINESS AND NO ONE ELSE’S. Cops and other morons actually make things WORSE. If you don’t believe me, look what happened when the (idiot) government made alcohol illegal: all that happened was the making of the America Mafia, and illegal pot or other drugs is creating the Mexican Mafia. Government fucks up almost anything it lays its hands on, so drugs should be a matter of local or state at best, and even then it is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS EITHER.

    5. Ah! The looter Kleptocracy’s superstitious laws are OK. The problem is the animals they use to rob, jail and kill people. Entrenched looter sockpuppets’ inability to grasp reality is the best reason for never missing a chance to cast a law-repealing Libertarian spoiler vote. Losing is something they understand.

    6. It’s absurd.

    7. For starters, no cop or anyone else tells me what I put into my mouth, food, drugs, or whatever. Useless cops (all of them) need to be fired and put in prison.

      1. This is a well thought out plan. You come up with that yourself?

  2. Just think about what kind of powers you’ve ceded to the democrats now that they are charge. Good job!

    1. Worse than the pigs cross-dressing as workers is other looter parasites cross-dressing to infiltrate a libertarian magazine and spew nationalsocialist propaganda about the other half of their own Kleptocracy.

    2. Partisans, please do whatever you can to hasten the end of your lives.

      That is all.

  3. >>arguments that the seizure violated his Fourth Amendment rights

    once it’s out of your hands or mouth it’s not private

    1. What about the jab in my arm?

      1. to eject blood or inject whatever’s in “the vaccine”?

      2. What are you jabbing in your arm in private?

        1. Nome of your or my business, which is how it should be.

  4. I guess you could always start your own overnight package delivery service…

    1. Through rain, sleet or blow.

  5. Yo, fuck FedEx.

    I’ve heard that the best way to ship your drugs is actually the USPS as the requirements for searching a package are much higher than with a private carrier (if they permit it, which apparently they do). Not sure if that’s still true.

    1. Aren’t the penalties if caught higher because something something mail carrier?

      1. I had always heard USPS because of the ‘tragic boating accident’ of product shipping: I order something shipped to Diane Reynolds at my address. I’m out when it arrives and, as soon as I pick it up, I write “Undeliverable As Addressed” or “Moved – No Forawrding Address” or similar on it and leave the package I don’t own in my foyer.

        It was unique to the USPS because if Fedex or UPS accidentally delivers your package to the wrong address (even if you happen to live there) it’s a private matter and the onus is on you to clarify it with the delivery service, whereas USPS is nominally forbidden from handing your package to just anyone.

        But, of course, all of the above is predicated on the BOR, presumption of innocence, etc.

    2. Also from what I heard UPS doesn’t check packages or deploy dogs. I blame Mitch Hedburg.

      I love my Fedex driver, he’s a drug dealer and don’t even know it. And he’s always on time.

    3. FedEx permits it. It’s not clear if UPS and the other private shipping companies also allow this.

    4. Under the Comstock law the federal monopoly could search anything with or without cause. A birth control pamphlet, French postcard, Confederate flyer or Firestone rubber dildo was good for ten years on a chain gang in 1873–plus kilos of gold in fines.

  6. “I don’t agree with it. The difficulty is that FedEx lets them do that,” he tells Reason. “They’ve always cooperated with law enforcement. Sometimes the cops are dressed like a FedEx driver delivering the package to the house. They’ve done that forever. And FedEx cooperates with them—even loans them the truck.”

    I’m not sure this gets me particularly freaked out. If the problem is with the drug war, few here disagree with that. But the idea of cops dressing as service technicians… ie , going undercover has a very long and hallowed tradition. Hell, one of the biggest mob bosses was taken down by FBI agents dressing up as Cable Company technicians who were in the neighborhood to fix a problem, and placed bugs in all his equipment.

    Warrantless searches, searches for substances that probably shouldn’t be illegal in the first place, going beyond the scope of warrants etc., these are all valid points. But worrying that they dress up as something they’re not to catch criminals is probably not a hill to die on.

    1. I would agree, but it is interesting to know about.

    2. What doesn’t pass the smell test for me (no pun intended, given the drug involved) is this:

      Police then entered Green’s home and performed a warrantless search of the apartment—going through his trash, his cabinets, even a shoebox. Garcia opened the FedEx package and found marijuana.
      Officers subsequently obtained a search warrant to retrieve the materials they saw during their sweep, including two firearms, magazines, a ledger and scale, a bag of marijuana buds, and the shoebox, which contained cannabis residue.

      Seems like conducting the search, then getting the warrant after the fact not only defeats the whole concept of needing a warrant, but should result in all that evidence being suppressed.

      1. No disagreement. The issue is about warrants and procedure, not dressing up as something other than a cop.

      2. the list of (questionable) exigencies is long and distinguished

      3. The 8th also found that part fishy.

      4. Judge: “So how did you know exactly what items you would find when you executed the warrant?”

        Cop: “Because we already found them on our first search, before the warrant”.

        Judge: “So you violated the defendants’ civil rights? Are you aware that is a federal crime with stiff criminal penalties?”

        1. I’m certain their wrists will hurt a lot from the slap.

    3. ” going undercover has a very long and hallowed tradition.”

      That there is a long history of cops doing that is not a valid argument that it ought to be allowed.

      1. You’re going to have to make a really good case as to why cops should wear a siren-helmet and announce themselves as cops via megaphone in every situation and step of any interaction with the public.

        What we need to do is respect and adhere to the warrant process, and the fact that in a few cases some cops don a hat and Groucho glasses shouldn’t be of primary concern. When the real issue is they’re wiping their ass with the warrant process, we lose perspective when we complain the cop someone you while posing as homeless guy on the subway.

        1. “You’re going to have to make a really good case as to why cops should wear a siren-helmet and announce themselves as cops via megaphone in every situation and step of any interaction with the public.”

          Yeah, NO. I think a standard police uniform is sufficient in 99.9% of cases.

    4. They didn’t merely dress up as FedEx employees to conduct surveillance or to carry out an arrest – they dressed up that way to facilitate the very crime that they arrested the person for.

      Consider the timing. They had reasonable suspicion to believe that package A contained drugs. They had evidence (via the package label) that could have been used to prosecute the sender. Rather than get a warrant, open the package, confirm the drugs, arrest the sender and declare the win, they went further and delivered something they suspected to be illegal.

      Then, having delivered a box which for all they knew at the time could have been completely innocent (drug dogs have false positives, too), they compounded the problem with the warrantless search

      1. They didn’t merely dress up as FedEx employees to conduct surveillance or to carry out an arrest – they dressed up that way to facilitate the very crime that they arrested the person for.

        I know that. I argue it doesn’t matter if they were dressed as a homeless guy, or Dudley Doright.

        1. Takedowns in the Santa outfit are the best.

      2. So you’re claiming they would ordinarily arrest the Fed Ex deliveryperson in such a situation? Seems more likely at that point they were limiting the people handling evidence to the suspect and LE while not interfering with the delivery otherwise.

        They definently should have been in the process of getting a warrant for the package at that point and then the apartment based off the package contents or what was visible in the apartment without pawing through anything.

    5. But worrying that they dress up as something they’re not to catch criminals is probably not a hill to die on.

      Especially for the guy who had buds, a balance, a ledger, a gun, and a previous felony arrest.

      Did police suddenly stop kicking in wrong doors and shooting peoples’ dogs?

      1. And along the lines of the other distinctions being made, he shouldn’t be arrested for having marijuana. My point is that ‘the ends justify the means’ argument is much harder to make when you bust a grandma with a medical marijuana prescription, a grandma having hemp yarn shipped to her, or even just a grandma having regular cotton yarn shipped to her. The cops didn’t know for sure what was in the package before they delivered it.

    6. “Criminals” = owners of plant leaves. Anyone care to argue ethics and reason with superstitious conservative Ladydick here?

  7. And didn’t they screw up by arresting him before he had opened the box? I know that’s a defense that has worked in the past in similar cases.

    1. “I didn’t order this shit!”

  8. If you used to work for FedEx but then joined the DEA as part of this program, you are now an ex FedEx fed.

    1. What are they when they leave the program then?

      1. Fed up ex ex FedEx fed?

  9. Um isn’t it the stated position of Reason liberaltarians that private companies can act as agents of the state because that advances the liberty of oligarchs or something? I’m a little confused here. Hopefully OBL will show up and explain the nuance I’m missing.

    1. You’re missing the part about unlimited immigration.

      1. It all makes sense now. All of the pieces fit.

      2. Wait, they’re shipping asylum seekers (we all know there are no economic migrants) by Fed Ex these days?

        1. Yes. After 3D printed cuckoo eggs were surreptitiously inserted as brood parasite invaders in nests belonging to songbirds, some of them were deported or removed by the mommy birds. A new federal program calls for printing thousands of Afghan collaborators and suicide vest models. Agents disguised as ornithologists are dropping them into communities to see if residents have as much intelligence as a mommy bird.

    2. Reason’s stated position is that if a red state governor bans a private company from doing something the Federal government wants them to do, to protect the civil rights of the company’s customers, that is an undue interference with the private company’s liberty.

      But Abbott didn’t ban this practice, so it’s bad.

    3. Thank you… I was kinda puzzled by the hypocrisy here, but it makes sense when there are no Dems to defend.

  10. Why exactly is FedEx giving access to the federales?

    1. For the same reason McDonalds gave access to Federal Agents to act as a camera crew to snare the Monopoly fraudsters.

      1. Those guys were defrauding McDonald’s. FedEx isn’t really an injured party here.

  11. Fedex is a private business.

    “But come on, it’s different when we’re dealing with drugs and immigrants though”

    Fedex is a private business.

  12. Ja. I had a friend (who is African-American— see below for relevance) of mine ordering me some primo designer drugs through the mail. After 6 months or so he got a visit from the postal inspectors. While these fucking fascist asshats were asking him if he had kids (because apparently these fucks like getting off on the prospect of separating families) he turned to them and asked them if they thought they were doing Gods’ work. Talk about ballsy! Anyway, They asked him a bunch of questions about his sources to which he pleaded dumb and then they went home to their little perfect Hitler Youth houses in Rio Linda. Fuck them.

    I’d bitch about that more and celebrate this minor victory against the police, but the people in the comments here routinely celebrate acts of police violence against poor people, minorities and immigrants so this isn’t really the place to talk about the victories of the individual over the government. That’s probably on a forum dedicated to anarchism or the Democratic Socialists. They don’t like the government. You celebrate it except when it affects rich tech bro assholes that will always be richer than you. On that little asterisk you are reliably libertarian.

    1. I’d bitch about that more and celebrate this minor victory against the police, but the people in the comments here routinely celebrate acts of police violence against poor people, minorities and immigrants

      Look who’s talking. You are a totalitarian who wants to institute a police state.

    2. >>the place to talk about the victories of the individual over the government

      I hate the government. and I love designer drugs. and you said I was a moron for my unvaccinated status. but my reason for the status is I hate the government so lol.

      1. What’s a wonder drug developed by Pfizer and Moderna have to do with the government? When a private business doesn’t want your business unless you wear a mask inside it’s premises you understand that’s not tyranny and even animus directed against you by Joe Biden, right?

        1. You are clearly ignorant of how much tax money went to those companies to develop what you call a “wonder drug.” I wonder why it doesn’t do a better job of protecting people from getting the infection that it is designed to protect against.

          It is still an experiential drug, and the FDA approval short-circuiting many of the typical approval processes and timelines doesn’t change that, because it is almost certainly a political, not a scientific decision.

          I will await the Novavax product with much more proven (35 years), safer technology.

          1. Just to set the record straight.

            Pfizer did not take any government money to develop the vaccine they produced. Pfizer is a huge multinational with many proven products. They had been researching mRNA vaccines and were ready to go. It now has full FDA approval. It is not an experiment.

            Moderna had been a startup with no proven products and no production capability. They were investigating mRNA technology for a decade before this. This one worked. They did accept government money to complete development and secure manufacturing contracts.

            Janssen pharmaceuticals, the other one available here uses an attenuated adenovirus (DNA) programmed to enter the nucleus and code for production of the antigen spike protein. Janssen is a subsidiary of J&J a huge multinational. They are based in Belgium.

            The mRNA vaccines never enter the nucleus where the DNA is. They skip that step and interact with the ribosomes in cytoplasm which produce the protein on the cell surface. MRNA cannot replicate. It is degraded and after a few days the cell stops producing the antigen.

            What happens after is similar no matter the delivery system. A cascade of immune responses. Immunoglobulins, memory T and B cell lymphocytes. All of that.

            So we do know now that the response wanes over time. There is no proven technology. All of this is a novel response to a new pathogen.

            1. It’s ‘safe’ approval cited 4 months of data gathered from the public.

              It is the biggest experiment in the history of the world. Everyone ponied up to be part of a vaccine trial that’s showing to be effective for only a handful of months against a rapidly mutating flu virus.

        2. What’s a wonder drug developed by Pfizer and Moderna have to do with the government?
          Just LOL

          1. What does a runaway communist Chinese germ lab biological weapon say about socialism and the initiation of deadly force?

  13. “We conclude that Detective Garcia did not deprive FedEx of custody because he was acting at FedEx’s direction,”

    Reason has let it be known that it is perfectly fine for Google to censor and spy on us all they like because they are private businesses.

    So why does Binion get his panties in a know when FedEx searches through packages? They are a private company, and they made a private decision to invite police to search through their packages! Libertarianism FTW!

    1. So why does Binion get his panties in a know when FedEx searches through packages?

      Because it’s different with the internet. Somebody owns those FedEx packages and the stuff that’s inside them, sometimes even multiple somebodies. The internet, OTOH, nobody owns the internet.

  14. “FedEx can control its own rights. It has Fourth Amendment rights, and it can invite the police in,” says Orin Kerr, a law professor at Berkeley. Whether or not Green’s constitutional rights were violated turns on the timing, he adds: “Normally it only implicates the sender and receiver of the package’s rights if it delays the delivery.”

    In this case it did not. But the big story here isn’t the technical query; it’s FedEx’s relationship with law enforcement. “It was new to me that there was this program that’s so formalized,” says Kerr.

    “Security is a priority at FedEx,” says a spokesperson for the company. “While we do not publicly disclose information about our security processes and procedures, we do work with law enforcement agencies around the U.S.”

    This is called corporatism. These kind of corporate/government partnerships are fascist and completely against everything libertarianism stands for.

    This is also the logical end of many ‘Muh private cumpany” arguments made here.

    1. Private company, but FedEx must be upset their goodwill toward the police is being used to arrest someone over a substance that 91% of the US population thinks should be legal. FedEx could and should not want to cooperate in this situation.

      1. And, the funny thing is, “Get a warrant” should shield them and the cops should want to get a warrant to both exonerate their accomplice and validate their investigation.

    2. And yes, but what is there to do outside of grassroots pressure

  15. Bake the cake, sell the flowers, take the wedding photographs and don’t do drugs and you’ll be OK.

    1. wear the mask, get the jab, don’t say bad things on Twitter, etc.

    2. OBEY or be shot from behind a shield of qualified immunity… and if thousands rise to help you, they get killed just as cynically. Raise your hand if you realize that individual rights and leveraged, law-changing spoiler votes are a matter of life and death. BTW, when was the last time you looked at a Fedex stock chart?

  16. I do find it amusing that after being so skeptical as to how the cop could possibly know there were drugs in the box … there were drugs in the box.

    Am I supposed to believe that the cops routinely set up these elaborate events only to find no drugs? You’d think they’d get teased about that.

    1. Smells like parallel construction to me.

      1. Did they parallel construct his prior conviction? If they did, why isn’t that the reason they’re being appealed?

    2. Drug dogs give false positives all the time.

  17. This makes it too easy for the cops to send a box of dope to a suspected drug dealer.

  18. I’m just impressed FedEx got the box to the proper house. For the last year they have been absolute shite, and I will not trust them with anything of value for fear of it getting lost or damaged.

  19. Where any dogs shot during this valuable operation to protect society?

  20. What happens when the cops mail you a box straight from the police station full of drugs and then arrest you for picking it up off your porch?

    1. Your house is confiscated via asset forfeiture but you still have to pay the mortgage. Waiting too long to confess will be bad for your credit rating.

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  22. I expected to see comments about police abuse of authority. Instead I see a bunch of anti vax rhetoric, and complaints about democrats. Can’t you folks stick to the topic?

    1. This is just another right-wing bitch blog.

  23. In Orwell’s 1984 kids dress up as federal agents to rat on their parents’ throughtcrime. Biden’s 1986 conservative-backed prohibition law added 2300 Treasury and Justice Department enforcement personnel to the Southwest Border as Operation Alliance. That was 118 years after Lysander Spooner recommended hunting down and killing the agents of gangs of robbers and murderers in our midst. Today people who lack the guts to even vote libertarian will be surprised to wake up surrounded by Taliban.

  24. Wow what heroes saving people from that super dangerous cannabis. Good thing something like fentanyl doesn’t exist or they’d be tied up trying to stop the flow of that and no one would be able to stop the super evil cannabis

  25. With this logic, could one choose to make problems for somebody by sending them a pot via Fedex? How is the recipient to know the contents until they’ve opened it?

  26. The appeal was filed May 14 with FedEx stock at 308.43. The stock price broke May 27 as news of the remand leaked, and is now down $41.50 a share to 267.90. This is illustrative of how the violence of prohibition and asset forfeiture laws causes runs on banks and liquidation of affected stock portfolios. FedEx might sue Kansas City for damages. Prosecutor Mabel Willebrandt was from Kansas and her success in using tax and asset forfeiture laws to enforce prohibition caused the entire U.S. stock market to begin its accelerating decline in late August, 1929. That was when her syndicated column began explaining in 20 newspapers “The Inside of Prohibition.” I would dump their collaborationist stock if I held any.

    1. Not a buy point then?

      1. Stock is STILL plummeting since May 27… They may have to change the name to Vichy Quisling or Federal Expediters

        1. Oh good. When it gets to $230-220 let me know. I am a long term value person. This is the Coca Cola of logistics.

          1. This is the Coca Cola of logistics.

            Without the protracted legacy of Coca Cola… or Sears.

  27. I think Billy lost his blow to the cops.

  28. So far the tally is 47 tons of dog food and what may be a marijuana cigarette.

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