The precious ventilators were stolen from the warehouse
Two persons wearing full PPE with gowns, face masks, and latex gloves, loaded five pallets of the precious ventilators onto the U-Haul truck. Later, the FBI agent observed, “This case ain’t gonna be easy. Those guys are sophisticated professionals. Each of those ventilators can fetch 10 grand on the black market.”
By Israel Zwick, April 5, 2020
Author’s Note: The following story is fictional. It was written as a fable to be instructive. The details are important. Pay attention. The story was inspired by Classic Logic Puzzles (Sterling Publishing Co., 2003). Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events should not be considered factual. They are not intended to be accurate representations.
The US Army truck pulled into the loading dock of the main storeroom of the NYC Department of Health. Two heavily armed soldiers in full camouflage gear came out of the truck. One stood at each side of the truck to protect the valuable cargo. Then two other soldiers came out, with pistols attached to their hips. They proceeded to unload 10 pallets of high-grade ventilators. Each pallet contained 50 ventilators. The truck then pulled away and rode off into the empty streets.
A few minutes later, a U-Haul truck pulled into the loading dock. Two persons dressed in full PPE with gowns, face masks, and latex gloves came out of the storeroom. They quickly loaded five pallets of the precious ventilators onto the U-Haul truck, then went back into the stockroom as the truck disappeared into the streets.
About an hour later, James O’Neill and his assistant, Ray Spinella, came into the Health Department storeroom. Mayor de Blasio placed former NYPD Commissioner O’Neill in charge of distributing valuable medical equipment and supplies to the hospitals that needed them most. O’Neill examined the pallets of ventilators and had difficulty containing his anger. “Ray,” he shouted, “get me the Governor on the phone right away.” Ray handed him the phone. “Andy, what’s going on? You promised me 500 ventilators. I only got 250. What gives?” Governor Cuomo seemed puzzled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mike Pence just called me and told me that the US Army just delivered 500 of their best ventilators to you.” “Well, I only got 250,” responded O’Neill. “This is very serious,” replied Cuomo, “those ventilators are federal property. This falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI. I’ll call the New York Field Office. You’ll hear from them directly.”
About a half hour later, an unmarked black sedan pulled into the loading dock. Two men came out and rang the doorbell. They identified themselves as FBI Special Agents Michael Hardy and Anthony Drew. They asked to see the surveillance videos from the security cameras. The images showed the two persons loading the pallets into the U-Haul as well as a clear image of the U-Haul license plate. Tony pulled out his iPad to trace the plate number. It belonged to the U-Haul rental center in College Point, Queens. College Point was very close to the epicenter of the viral outbreak in Queens. “That’s easy enough,” remarked Tony, “let’s take a ride out to College Point and find out who rented the truck.”
Mike and Tony got into their car and drove out to the U-Haul rental center. The traffic was so light that they didn’t even have to use their police siren. When they arrived, they were surprised to see the gate locked with a handwritten sign on cardboard, “Closed for Virus.” Upon closer examination, the heavy chain that closed the gate was cut into two and carefully replaced to conceal the cut. It was obvious that the truck was stolen, not rented. “This case ain’t gonna be easy, “observed Tony, “these guys are sophisticated professionals. They know that each of those ventilators could fetch at least 10 grand on the black market. Multiply that by 250.” Tony’s concerns were quickly confirmed. His phone rang. It was NYPD. They found an abandoned U-Haul truck a short distance away in the vicinity of La Guardia Airport. With all the trucks and warehouses in the area, trying to find the ventilators would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. “Hey Mike,” Tony called out, “NYPD wants to know if we want to examine the truck. What should I tell them?” Mike replied,” I don’t think we’re going to learn anything from the truck. The driver probably disappeared already, the truck’s clean, and I’m sure there were no witnesses. I think we’re better off going back to the Health Department and trying to identify those two guys that loaded the pallets before they disappear. Tell NYPD to take some pics and hold on to the truck, we’ll get back to it later.”
Mike and Tony went back to the stockroom in an attempt to identify the two employees who loaded the truck with the five pallets. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Department was operating 24/7. At the time of the robbery, there were about 400 employees in the building. Each one was wearing the exact same PPE outfit, there was no way to identify the suspects from the surveillance videos. Fortunately, only 23 of those employees had authorized access to the stockroom. Of the 23, eleven were regular employees of the stockroom. Of those eleven, the FBI agents learned that five were present in the stockroom at the time of the robbery. They identified the five and brought them to a room for questioning. Of course, they each denied having any knowledge of the robbery. After the general questioning, each of the five suspects made two closing statements.
Which of the five suspects were the ones that loaded the pallets on the U-Haul truck?
Assume that the two guilty persons were among the five suspects. One of the thieves, makes two true statements, the other guilty one makes two false statements. The veracity of the statements from the three innocent suspects is unknown, that is they could be true or false. The five suspects were named Alex, Bob, Chad, Dave, and Evan. They made the following statements after the questioning by the FBI agents:
Alex: 1. I wasn’t near the loading dock during the robbery, I was in the back unloading the shipment of N95 masks.
- Bob is also innocent.
Bob: 1. I am innocent, I had nothing to do with it.
- I know that Evan’s first statement is false
Chad: 1. I have no idea who the guilty ones are, I always mind my own business.
- But I know that Dave’s statements are both false.
Dave: 1. Chad’s second statement is not true.
- I know that Alex is not guilty
Evan: 1. Alex and Bob are the thieves.
- At least one of Dave’s statements is true.
Remember: One of the guilty suspects makes two true statements. The other guilty party makes two false statements. The statements from the suspects that are innocent could be true or false, we don’t know.
Given this information, how did the two FBI agents, Mike and Tony, identify the two suspects that loaded the five pallets onto the U-Haul truck?
Solution: If you’re home alone in isolation with nothing to do, take a little time to figure it out. If you’re busy preparing for the upcoming religious holidays, then read the solution below. It’s a little confusing, so read carefully.
Let’s assume that Alex is guilty. We can test this assumption against the statements made by the other four suspects. If Alex is guilty, then his first statement claiming innocence has to be false. So the second statement also has to be false. Then Bob has to be guilty, and both of his statements have to be true. However, Bob’s first statement claims innocence, so that would be a contradiction. Therefore, Alex can’t be guilty.
Now let’s assume that Bob is guilty. Therefore, it would be false for him to claim innocence. So both statements must be false. Therefore, if Bob is guilty, then Evan’s first statement must be true, that Alex and Bob are the thieves. However, we already determined that Alex is innocent. So Evan’s first statement has to be false as truthfully indicated by Bob. Therefore Bob is not guilty, either.
Let’s assume that Evan is guilty. If so, we know that his first statement is false. Then his second statement also must be false. However, we know that Dave’s second statement that Alex is not guilty is true. That means that Evan’s second statement is true. Since he can’t have one false statement and one true statement, Evan is not guilty.
Therefore, by elimination, the guilty ones are Chad, both of whose statements are false, and Dave, both of whose statements are true.
Suspect Statement 1 Statement 2
Alex T/F T
Bob T T
Chad F F
Dave T T
Evan F T
Chad and Dave were the guilty suspects who loaded the pallets onto the U-Haul truck. The FBI detectives confronted them with their suspicions. Frightened, they confessed completely and revealed who paid them to steal the pallets. With a little more detective work, Mike and Tony were able to identify the entire gang of thieves and retrieve the stolen ventilators. They received a citation from the FBI Director for their excellent detective work and for the many lives that they saved. As soon as the ventilators were returned, O’Neill and Spinella promptly distributed them to the needy hospitals in Elmhurst, Jamaica, and Flushing that were inundated with COVID-19 patients.