A Truckload of Evidence: 42,000 Pounds of Pistachios Are Stolen in California

A California pistachio firm was conducting a routine audit when it observed one thing suspicious: About 42,000 kilos of pistachios — practically sufficient to fill a truck trailer — had been lacking.

Officials of the corporate, Touchstone Pistachio, known as the agricultural crimes unit of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. Within days, after checking surveillance footage, sheriff’s deputies arrested 34-year-old Alberto Montemayor, who had been working for Montemayor Trucking, a family-owned enterprise that the pistachio firm had employed this 12 months as a contractor, in keeping with the authorities.

Mr. Montemayor was charged with grand theft, the Sheriff’s Office mentioned.

Sgt. Joseph England, who leads the agricultural crimes unit, mentioned it was not unusual for folks to steal nuts in many of California’s rural counties, the place farming drives the native economies. The product isn’t simply traced, he mentioned.

But 42,000 kilos of pistachios wasn’t one thing he’d seen earlier than.

“That was pretty large,” Sergeant England mentioned. “You don’t come across that every day.”

Touchstone Pistachio, which has its headquarters in Terra Bella, Calif., north of Bakersfield in Tulare County, declined to remark.

Mr. Montemayor declined to touch upon Monday when reached by telephone.

Sergeant England mentioned he and the 4 investigators in the unit reviewed the surveillance cameras in the corporate’s facility. Afterward, they concluded Mr. Montemayor was the suspect.

While 21-ton nut thefts don’t happen usually in Tulare County, it’s not unheard-of, Sergeant England mentioned. Nuts are massive enterprise in the area, and agricultural thefts are important sufficient that the sheriff’s workplace created its agricultural crimes unit in 1996.

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux of Tulare County instructed CNN in 2016 that his deputies traveled “as far as New Mexico” to search out stolen merchandise, which are sometimes nuts.

Mae Culumber, a University of California crop adviser who specializes in nut crops, mentioned nut commodities have an extended shelf life, making them preferrred for folks trying to make a revenue over a sustained quantity of time.

“There’s a lot of opportunities there versus other things that would be more perishable,” Ms. Culumber mentioned.

California contains 99 p.c of the whole U.S. industrial pistachio manufacturing, in keeping with American Pistachio Growers, a nonprofit commerce affiliation. Tulare’s crop report from 2019 states that the county had 74,540 acres of pistachios, in contrast with 147,900 in Kern County, instantly south of Tulare.

When questions in regards to the pistachios started developing in May, Sergeant England mentioned, Touchstone Pistachio thought a supply was both delayed or misplaced.

But when the corporate officers accomplished their audit on Thursday and realized $170,760 price of pistachios was lacking, they known as the agricultural crimes unit.

“In these facilities, there’s some oversight and checks and balances that’s done in order to keep track of everything,” Sergeant England mentioned.

Every pistachio-carrying tractor-trailer holds round $200,000 price of product, so the corporate “likes to keep track of everything,” he mentioned.

When the authorities discovered Mr. Montemayor, Sergeant England mentioned, they found that he had moved a tractor-trailer loaded with pistachios from the trucking firm’s lot to a different lot close by.

Each sack of pistachios in the tractor-trailer carried roughly 2,000 nuts, and Mr. Montemayor had been transferring them into smaller baggage in order to resell them for revenue, the Sheriff’s Office mentioned. The authorities had been capable of get well 40,000 kilos of pistachios, Sergeant England mentioned. It was unclear what had occurred to the remaining 2,000 kilos, he mentioned.

“These are high dollar loads moving from facility to facility,” Sergeant England mentioned. “If some of those oversight steps aren’t minded, the opportunity presents itself where there is a lot of money to be made.”

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