Man in Prison for Stealing Syrup Now Told to Pay Millions

Richard Vallieres was part of massive scheme that lifted one of country's hottest commodities
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2022 6:27 AM CDT
Man in Prison for Stealing Syrup Now Told to Pay Millions
In this April 18, 2000, photo, maple syrup sits for sale at the Old Port Market in Quebec City.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques Boissinot)

In what may be the most Canadian of crimes yet—and the "stickiest," per the BBC—the nation's high court this week ruled that a "major player" in a scheme to steal a massive amount of maple syrup must pay a $7.2 million fine. That player is Richard Vallieres, currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for his role in the $14.4 million heist that saw 3,300 tons of the breakfast condiment go missing. Between 2011 and 2012, Vallieres and his team of sticky fingers targeted a Quebec warehouse that stockpiles an emergency reserve of syrup for the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The thieves then sold their spoils throughout Canada and the US.

Vallieres—found guilty in 2016 of theft, fraud, and trafficking—admitted at his trial to having sold $8 million worth of syrup himself, of which $800,000 was profit that stayed in his pocket. And so that's the amount that the Quebec Court of Appeal originally ruled he should be fined, knocking the number down from a much higher one. But in a unanimous ruling on Thursday, the nine-judge Canadian Supreme Court overturned that appeals court decision, ruling instead that Vallieres should fork over the value of the entire amount he sold, not just what he took home. "Distinguishing between an offender's income and expenses in order to determine the offender's profit margin would essentially amount to legitimating criminal activity," the high court's ruling read, per the CBC.

The scheme, which involved the thieves replacing syrup in the barrels at the Quebec warehouse with water, was discovered in 2012: During a regularly scheduled survey, an inspector almost knocked over one of the empty barrels, which normally would've weighed close to 600 pounds if filled with syrup. USA Today, citing original reporting by the AP and Bloomberg, notes it was a big enough theft to "put a dent in the global supply of maple syrup," as Quebec produces more than 70% of the world's maple syrup. Vallieres now has 10 years to come up with the cash to pay the fine, or he'll have six more years tacked onto his current sentence. (Read more Canada stories.)

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