A recidivist seafood swindler who once posed as a phony cruise line executive to pull off a six-figure shrimp scam is once again in hot water over a brazen shellfish caper in which he allegedly made off with “hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth” of king and snow crab.
David Subil, 51, was arrested following a manhunt that spanned multiple states and ended with a complex sting operation, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday and obtained by The Daily Beast. He has stolen millions of dollars of food over the course of his extensive criminal career, and was accused as a teen of attempting to kill a Florida police officer, court records show. That charge was ultimately dropped.
Subil now stands accused of interstate transportation of stolen property, as well as conspiracy, and faces decades in prison if convicted. Reached on Friday by The Daily Beast, Subil’s lawyer, David Fernandez, declined to comment.
Like many modern frauds, it all began with an email.
On Jan. 3, 2023, Alexander Gorelik, the owner of a wholesale seafood distribution company in San Francisco, was contacted by a man who introduced himself as Christopher Delgado, a buyer from the venerable Safeway supermarket chain. A couple of weeks after Safeway invoice and billing supervisor Jennifer Zavala helped Gorelik set up a vendor account, Delgado sent Gorelick a purchase order for $432,000 worth of Russian king crab, according to the complaint.
The order was sent via business management software, and since everything appeared legit, Gorelik authorized the crab to be released from a cold storage facility he contracted with in Stanwood, Washington.
On Jan. 18, trucker Juan Sanchez picked up the order—300 cases of 6/9 count red king crab and 300 cases of 4/7 count king crab—in a 26-foot refrigerated box truck from cold storage.
This was followed by a second purchase order from Delgado, who asked Gorelik to ship him another $300,000 worth of king crab. The shipment, which Sanchez collected from the same cold storage facility on Jan. 20, contained 360 cases of king crab legs and claws, 40 cases of opilio snow crab, and 240 cases of 6/9 count red king crab legs and claws, according to the complaint.
But after the second load of crab went out, Gorelik realized he had overcharged Delgado and Safeway. He tried to reach Delgado by phone to fix the error, but none of the numbers he had provided to Gorelik were correct. The toll-free number in Delgado’s email signature wasn’t his either, and a cell number he had given Gorelik was also fake. The same thing happened when Gorelik tried to reach Zavala at the toll-free number at the bottom of her emails, as well as when he tried Bridget Wood, another Safeway employee with whom he had been communicating.
At a crossroads, Gorelik called the director of seafood at Albertsons, Safeway’s parent company, who informed him that Delgado, Zavala, and Wood didn’t exist. The purchase orders were fake, and Gorelik’s company was not set up as a vendor for either Safeway or Albertsons.
On Jan. 23, Linda Boggs, the vice-president of the cold storage facility, contacted the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which sent a deputy to investigate. The deputy reviewed the facility’s sign-in log in addition to security footage of both of Sanchez’s pickups, which revealed the white truck he used had been rented from Ryder.
That very same day, Gorelik called the Snohomish deputy with urgent news: Delgado had contacted him to buy a third truckload of crab. On Jan. 24, Gorelick sent the deputy Delgado’s purchase order for 12,000 pounds of king crab, worth $432,000. The Snohomish Sheriff’s Office then contacted the Blaine, Washington office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative arm, and the feds quickly signed onto the case.
This time, Gorelik “worked with North Star Cold Storage to put product of lesser value in boxes labeled as the product ordered,” the complaint states. And thus, the trap was set. (Gorelik and Boggs declined to comment on the case.)
Delgado scheduled a pickup for Jan. 25 at 8 a.m., according to the complaint. Little did he know that Snohomish deputies had set up unmarked cars to follow the truck after it left with its expensive load of crab.
That morning, members of the Snohomish Violent Offender Task Force positioned themselves around the cold storage facility as Sanchez, Delgado’s driver, arrived in a white tractor-trailer. The Florida tag on the trailer, “QA84KI,” had an extra number “4” attached, which “appeared to be a house number affixed to the plate,” the complaint states.
The surveillance team followed the truck south for about an hour, the “4” falling off the trailer’s license plate along the way. The Snohomish deputy contacted the Washington State Patrol to pull over the truck, which bore an invalid DOT registration number, for a commercial vehicle inspection. At a nearby weigh station, Sanchez handed over a bogus bill of lading to the trooper, which listed the total weight of the shipment as a mere 1/10 of the actual 12,000 pounds of crab, according to the complaint.
After the truck left the weigh station, the Snohomish surveillance team pulled the truck over again. One of the deputies put Sanchez in handcuffs, informing him he was being arrested on suspicion of forgery and possession of a fraudulent bill of lading, the complaint states.
But while Sanchez refused to speak to police, his passenger, identified only as “A.C.” in the complaint, decided to talk.
A.C. told officers that he “was out of money, and badly needed work,” according to the complaint. Sanchez had arranged the job, and the two were delivering the truckload of crab to Portland, Oregon, he said.
Sanchez told the police that he was willing to release the truck to A.C., who was not under arrest, so he could continue on and make the delivery. But the lead Snohomish deputy informed A.C. that law enforcement had covertly switched out the load before he and Sanchez arrived at the cold storage facility, and that “the product in the back of the trailer was not actually crab and was unsellable,” the complaint states. In the meantime, Sanchez was booked into the Snohomish County Jail. He bailed out a few hours later and disappeared, according to the complaint, which notes, “[I]t is unknown where Sanchez traveled to after he was released from police custody.”
A few days later, “Delgado” was back at it, seemingly unperturbed by the last order not making it. He called Gorelik to place yet another order, his fourth, for $420,000 worth of crab. But at the behest of law enforcement, which needed time to procure the necessary warrants, Gorelik told Delgado that there had been a production snag and the crab wouldn’t be ready for pickup until Feb. 3. (None of the previous three shipments had yet been paid for, according to the complaint.) When the day arrived, Delgado called North Star Cold Storage and canceled, saying he was having problems with his truck.
By this time, investigators had learned from Ryder that the white truck Sanchez used to pick up the first two orders from cold storage “had been rented by an individual named David Subil,” the complaint states. The crab from those shipments had turned up in Florida, and the buyer, who said he did not know the shellfish had been stolen, showed police an invoice signed by a “David.” He also handed over David’s business card, which included two phone numbers but no last name. The buyer gave cops a receipt showing he had wired $145,000 to David’s company, Global Supply P&P, for the pilfered crab.
As it turned out, Global Supply P&P was an active Florida company, and had been registered by one David Subil, according to the complaint. Subil was also the registrant of a second company, Surf & Turf 2 You Corp., which, like Global Supply P&P, had a listed address that traced back to a UPS Store in Miami.
“David Subil has a long criminal history, including, but not limited to, Grand Theft of the 2nd Degree, Grand Theft 3rd Degree and Fraud-Swindle,” the complaint goes on. “An online search reveals that in two prior instances, he has purchased seafood and meat with counterfeit checks.”
“Delgado,” investigators now realized, was in fact Subil, who also emailed Gorelik as Jennifer Zavala and Bridget Wood, according to the complaint.
On Feb. 8, Subil, as Delgado, arranged for a fourth shipment of crab to be picked up from cold storage. However, cops once again replaced what Subil thought would be crab with worthless filler and hid a GPS tracker in one of the pallets. From the warehouse, the truck made its way to Portland, and, eight days later, arrived in Miami, the complaint states. On Feb. 18, the GPS tracker pinged from a Florida junkyard, where a local HSI task force officer snapped a photo of the boxes Subil was told contained king crab, dumped as trash.
That same day, HSI agents were notified that Subil had booked a one-way ticket from Miami International Airport to Medellin, Colombia, departing Feb. 19.
“According to CBP records, Subil has no international travel in the last five years,” the complaint states. “Subil has no known connection to Columbia [sic]. Based on my experience and the recent activity in this case, I believe this last-minute travel was booked in order to flee the country from potential prosecution.”
Subil was arrested on Feb. 21.
This is not, by any stretch, Subil’s first rodeo. A career criminal and con artist, Subil has convictions dating back to the 1990s when he was still a teen.
At the age of 19, Subil and another man led police on a six-mile car chase, with Subil at one point attempting to run over an officer, according to the Miami Herald. He was later convicted of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, according to court records.
Five years later, Subil was arrested again for an elaborate fraud scheme involving the use of counterfeit checks to purchase more than $200,000 worth of cellphones.
After another fraud conviction in 2002, Subil conned a Detroit-based company out of $450,000 worth of meat, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana. After a stint at the Porter County Jail in Valparaiso, Indiana, Subil, who is Jewish, sued the lockup, alleging the facility refused to serve him kosher meals, forced him to work on the Sabbath, and wouldn’t allow him to have a yarmulke or pray using tefillin. (U.S. District Court Judge Phillip Simon later ruled that Subil’s rights had not in fact been violated because the tefillin could be used as a weapon.)
A string of other food-related scams followed. In 2006, Subil was ordered by a federal court to reimburse a dozen different companies for some $500,000 in stolen food. In 2013, Subil, using the aliases Rick Stevenson and Rick Acosta, masqueraded as a seafood buyer for a nonexistent cruise line, and was arrested and charged with a litany of crimes, including six counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud, for trying to make off with $60,000 worth of shrimp from a Fort Myers-based wholesaler, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In 2019, while in prison serving time for those charges, Subil wrote a food-related short story that was published in a book of prison writing, “Don’t Shake The Spoon.” In it, he describes an interaction in the prison canteen between the narrator and an older prisoner who uses a walker.
The narrator sits down with the old man and asks how he’s doing. (In prison society, Subil writes, “men choose between basic human courtesy and not looking soft.”) When the narrator asks the old man how he’s doing, the old man berates him for not attending Jewish religious services, but the narrator says he’s not a “congregator.”
“You know, Pop,” the narrator tells the old man, “I’d love to be drinking champagne right now, maybe by the pool at the Ritz, looking out at the ocean, watching the cruise ships head out.”
Subil remains detained on the new crab charges. If convicted at trial, he faces a combined maximum of 25 years in federal prison.