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FBI, DHS operation recovers NHL bobbleheads after wild investigation reveals heist, ransom, and 'cargo recovery team'
Images via @penguins/X/Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

FBI, DHS operation recovers NHL bobbleheads after wild investigation reveals heist, ransom, and 'cargo recovery team'

The NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins reported that they had recovered their shipment of 19,000 bobbleheads after 11 days of rescue missions that involved federal authorities and ransom demands.

The bobbleheads, which were meant to commemorate hockey legend Jaromir Jagr, were announced by the team as stolen when the shipment arrived in California in early March 2024.

Nearly two weeks later, team officials announced they had recovered the cargo as part of an operation that involved Los Angeles police forces, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.

"They were due to arrive at the arena," Pittsburgh Penguins executive Kevin Acklin told KDKA. "They didn't arrive. At first, we heard that there was some engine trouble, and then it sounded like a group of extortionists had stolen the bobbleheads, maybe along with some other merchandise, and they were negotiating with the trucking company to release them."

Acklin, the team's president of business operations, told the local outlet that a person or persons used fake documentation to take the shipment of bobbleheads out of the holding facility.

"Somebody put fake paperwork in the hands of a distribution center," Acklin said. "They walked away or drove away with our product. And were starting to make contact with the company about delivering it back. Ultimately, it took about a week."

The shipping company then used its own "cargo recovery team" to acquire the shipment. The Penguins executive also alluded to the fact that the thieves made ransom demands but could not clarify if the shipping company paid a ransom.

"We weren't directly involved in paying any ransom," Acklin explained. "It was on the supplier to recover them and deliver them, and they did that. Now, I'm not sure 100% if they paid anything for that. My guess is that they probably did, and they have insurance for this kind of loss."

The hockey executive said that the thieves had not been arrested but that the truck with the bobbleheads was indeed secured by the recovery team.

An official team announcement said that the "special cargo recovery team negotiated the return of the stolen property to a secure warehouse."

After the shipment initially went missing, the Penguins' publicity team quickly went to work and made light of the situation, capitalizing on the popularity of the all-time great player Jagr.

"Did anybody see my bubbleheads?? 18000 of them. Actually, I got one, missing 17,999. Let me know. Thank you," Jagr wrote on his X account.

The team then quickly filmed Jagr taking a fictional journey in his car to find the remaining figurines. That video prompted conspiracy theories that the shipment theft was a publicity stunt, with hosts on "The Pat McAfee Show" wondering if the story had been "a work" of fiction.

"Was the theft a publicity stunt?" a fan asked the hockey team directly on Instagram.

"They were actually stolen, unfortunately," the team replied. "All fans in attendance will receive a voucher that includes a one-time scannable barcode that will be required to pick up the bobblehead at a later date," the team added.

The cargo never it made it out of California, although Acklin had a moment of concern that they might have gone north of the border.

"I got the call, and they said we have the cargo, it's in Ontario. I'm like, 'How did they get to Canada?' But apparently, it was Ontario, California."

Ticket-holders will use vouchers to acquire the precious memorabilia that was promised to them nearly a month before.

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