Thieves Are Getting Nuts in California

Nut thefts are apparently a big deal in California
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2017 5:35 PM CDT
Nut Thefts Are Big Deal in California
Pistachio nuts are seen in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Since 2013, more than 35 truckloads of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, worth a combined $10 million, have disappeared in California. In an extensive look at efforts to crack the case, Peter Vigneron at Outside reveals a story that is, well, nuts. It turns out stealing nuts, which are worth a pretty penny, is relatively easy. In one 2015 case, a truck driver drove off with a $450,000 load of pistachios before a nut company realized his paperwork was iffy. Companies don't always pay close attention to drivers' documents. But even if they did, it would be hard to find anything suspicious. One convicted thief told Vigneron he was able to get his hands on the Department of Transportation ID number for a legitimate trucking company. He slapped it on a truck, got a fake driver's license, and started getting jobs. It was that easy.

Though tracking nuts is far more difficult than tracking, say, electronics, which carry serial numbers, the thief was eventually caught delivering a truckload of almonds to a warehouse in Van Nuys, rather than its intended destination in New York. But he served less than a month in jail since those convicted of grand theft in California are to serve their sentences in county jails, which are overcrowded. Authorities are mostly focused on the "bigger fish," anyway, a detective tells Vigneron; sometimes the drivers involved aren't even aware of the larger scheme. That same detective says his investigations have revealed a key suspect co-signed a $5 million loan to a Los Angeles County official. Think you're beginning to understand how complicated a case this is? It only gets more complex. Authorities say their investigations have also revealed links to the Russian mafia. More on that here. (More California stories.)

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