California crime rings targeting almonds, cashews

almonds, cashews

Declining production of almonds and cashews due to California’s years-long drought and unstable weather has given birth to a new organized crime -- black marketing of high-end nuts.

Owners of almond and cashew farms in California are reinforcing security to strike at increasing efforts to divert nuts to the black market. Criminals are reportedly finding farm records so that they can mimic reputable shipping firms.

A thief posing as a driver of a reputable shipping company can take a truck-load of processed nuts worth as high as $500,000, and divert the whole shipment to the black market.

Agriculturists noted that once thieves used to steal copper wires or timber but declines in production of high-end nuts provided criminals with a new opportunity.

Danielle Rau, a rural-crime prevention expert with the California Farm Bureau in Sacramento, said, “Somebody who is stealing copper wire to make a quick buck for a quick fix is very different from somebody who is masterminding a plot to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds of nuts across county lines.”

Caro Nut Co.’s general manager Todd Crosswell grumbled that the increasing crime made his life “miserable” as his company has lost six shipments of cashews in 2015 alone to the schemes, which cost the company $1.2 million.