Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sep 13, 2006Tons of almonds vanish in nut heists (2:55 p.m.)

Farmers have long been plagued by commodity thieves, typically pilferers who might make off with a car trunk load of melons or a prize steer in the night. But authorities are now tracking a string of large-scale heists -- entire truckloads of almonds, 44,000 pounds or 22 tons of nuts at a throw -- plaguing San Joaquin Valley wholesalers."We've had 10 tractor-trailer loads (stolen) in just slightly over a year," said Cliff Emery, an agricultural crime specialist with ACTION (Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network).While almond prices have varied greatly over that period, up to around $4 per pound at one point and down to half that at another, at $3 per pound, the stolen nuts are worth more than $1.3 million.Investigators are puzzling over how the thief or thieves can dispose of such large volumes of almonds."It's not the type thing you're going to get rid of 4 pounds here, 5 pounds there," Emery said. "Whoever's doing this has a venue in place or has a way to get rid of the crop or knows someone who knows out to get rid of the crop."For more, see tomorrow's Record.

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