A California pistachio firm was conducting a routine audit when it seen one thing suspicious: About 42,000 kilos of pistachios — practically sufficient to fill a truck trailer — have been lacking.
Officers of the corporate, Touchstone Pistachio, referred to as the agricultural crimes unit of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Workplace. Inside 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 yr as a contractor, in keeping with the authorities.
Mr. Montemayor was charged with grand theft, the Sheriff’s Workplace stated.
Sgt. Joseph England, who leads the agricultural crimes unit, stated 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 stated.
However 42,000 kilos of pistachios wasn’t one thing he’d seen earlier than.
“That was pretty large,” Sergeant England stated. “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 cellphone.
Sergeant England stated 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.
Whereas 21-ton nut thefts don’t happen typically in Tulare County, it’s not unheard-of, Sergeant England stated. 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 advised CNN in 2016 that his deputies traveled “as far as New Mexico” to search out stolen merchandise, which are sometimes nuts.
Mae Culumber, a College of California crop adviser who specializes in nut crops, stated nut commodities have a protracted shelf life, making them preferrred for folks seeking 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 stated.
California includes 99 % 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 concerning the pistachios started developing in Could, Sergeant England stated, Touchstone Pistachio thought a supply was both not on time or misplaced.
However when the corporate officers accomplished their audit on Thursday and realized $170,760 value of pistachios was lacking, they referred to 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 stated.
Each pistachio-carrying tractor-trailer holds round $200,000 value of product, so the corporate “likes to keep track of everything,” he stated.
When the authorities discovered Mr. Montemayor, Sergeant England stated, they found that he had moved a tractor-trailer loaded with pistachios from the trucking firm’s lot to a different lot close by.
Every sack of pistachios in the tractor-trailer carried roughly 2,000 nuts, and Mr. Montemayor had been transferring them into smaller luggage in order to resell them for revenue, the Sheriff’s Workplace stated. The authorities have been capable of get better 40,000 kilos of pistachios, Sergeant England stated. It was unclear what had occurred to the remaining 2,000 kilos, he stated.
“These are high dollar loads moving from facility to facility,” Sergeant England stated. “If some of those oversight steps aren’t minded, the opportunity presents itself where there is a lot of money to be made.”