Rampant Theft: Christmas Eve Food Donations, Avocados, Wendy’s Restaurant Frozen Chicken, Fruit, Used Cooking Oil, & Other Food Thefts During Era of Obama (video)
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on December 21, 2011
As the US economy continues to sputter and stall, the stock market is precarious, Europe is in constant economic panic mode, and Pres. Obama continues to play the “blame game.” During this infernal “era of no hopenchange,” there’s been a growing number of food-related thefts in the United States.
Nothing, if it can be eaten, seems to be off limits for thieves these days.
A “bacon crime spree” has been growing in the Midwest, with pig thefts escalating.
A despicable food theft of Christmas Eve food intended to feed nearly 200 destitute families was reported in Minnesota by MPR News:
St. Paul, Minn. — A food shelf in north Minneapolis will hold its Christmas Eve giveaway, despite the theft of 1500 pounds of food on Friday. Police say a volunteer who was supposed to transport the food from outside the city to the food shelf drove away with it instead.
The theft is a real disappointment to Jeff Nehrbass, pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, which helps run the Camden Promise Food Shelf in Minneapolis.
“It’s heartbreaking that folks who had signed up to help would simply just take,” he said.
Bu, when word got out, Minnesotans responded with food and offers to help. People and businesses flooded the food shelf Tuesday with donations, Nehrbass said. Second Harvest Heartland said it will send more than 2,000 pounds of food, and Cub Foods will supply an additional 200 hams. Nehrbass said they’ll have more food than before the theft. Police say the stolen food was worth about $300.
A small gang of thieves in Wisconsin were recently arrested after a lengthy crime spree stealing trailers filled with thousands of dollars of Nike shoes and various food items, including salad dressing, beer, mozzarella cheese, and Chex Mix. The value of the stolen salad dressing alone was $30,000.
In Georgia, a Wendy’s restaurant was hit by thieves over the weekend — cases of frozen chicken and French fries were stolen:
Authorities are searching for the person responsible for the theft for six cases of food from Wendy’s this weekend.
A manager at the fast food eatery at 2738 Washington Road said she arrived around 6:30 a.m. Sunday to discover someone had cut the lock to outdoor freezer overnight and removed one case of breaded chicken, spicy chicken and crispy chicken and three cases of french fries.
The food was estimated at $268.
A strange avocado theft in San Diego County and even-more-strange court-ordered sentence, was reported by North County Times:
Avocados aren’t illegal to possess, unless you’re Barron Stein.
Stein, a 44-year-old Fallbrook man who admitted to stealing an estimated 600 to 1,000 pounds of avocados from a Bonsall grove in March, was banned from owning more than 10 of the creamy, green fruits at a time, a judge ordered Thursday.
Stein will stay out of jail as long as he abides by the terms of his three-year probation, which also restricts him from setting foot on any avocado grove.
Violation of either could land him in jail for 180 days, according to the sentence imposed by San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kimberlee A. Lagotta.
The order did not appear to differentiate between the many avocado varieties, from the 5-ounce Fuerte to the nearly 19-ounce Lamb Hass.
Stein, a former tow-truck driver who had been unemployed for a year and a half, took the avocados out of desperation to support his family, he said. They had an estimated value of $1,500.
Security cameras caught images of Stein during the March 15 avocado heist at an Eco Farms grove near the intersection of Camino Del Rey and Luis Rey Heights Road in Bonsall. On Aug. 23, a deputy recognized him and arrested him in Fallbrook.
From Los Angeles Times, Convicted avocado thief latest in growing problem — crop rustlers:
The 10 avocado sentence seemed, well, different.
Barron Stein, an admitted avocado thief in North San Diego County, was prohibited by the courts from possessing more than 10 avocados at a time. For the next three years, that’s all he can have –- whether it’s in a shopping cart, the pantry or a bowl of guacamole.
Stein was accused of making off with up to 1,000 pounds of avocados from a grove in Bonsall, a small town near Fallbrook.
He said he swiped the popular and typically pricey fruit because he was desperate for cash to support his family.
While Stein’s case was settled the way you’d expect things to be settled in a farming town, it also speaks to a larger problem -– crop rustlers.
Avocado thievery became such a nagging problem in the early 2000s that the district attorney’s office in San Diego County launched a three-month undercover sting investigation called Operation Green Gold.
The sting culminated with the arrest of the owner of a packing house in Fallbrook, a place where authorities claimed avocados were essentially “laundered” and then sold on the open market.
“I hope this will send a message of reassurance to our agricultural community: We take the issue of ‘undocumented’ fruit very seriously,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Elisabeth Silva said at the time.
In that bust, authorities also scooped up 5,500 pounds of sweet limes and 1,600 pounds of lemons –- all stolen. But the avocados, clearly, were the king of the cash crops on the black market.
An estimated 95% of the nation’s annual avocado harvest comes from California, and San Diego County accounts for about half of that, followed by Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties.
More recently, farmers in Ventura County formed Farm Watch to fight back when thieves started stripping avocados from the trees or speeding off with crates of the popular fruit.
Armed with cellphones, farmers and growers keep an eye on the orchards and groves, sending emails and photos to authorities or even agricultural interests in neighboring counties.
From Voice of America, Soaring Price of Used Grease Attracts Thieves:
The high price of food and fuel has made a valuable commodity out of an unexpected resource: the price of used vegetable oil from restaurant fryers is so high that people are stealing it.
Just ask grease truck driver Benjamin Dorsey. He picks up used fryer oil for Valley Proteins in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
These days, when Dorsey drives behind a restaurant to empty one of the company’s big metal containers for used grease, he’ll often find someone has beat him to it.
Of 15 scheduled stops on a recent morning, four had been hit by thieves. “If you don’t pick up any grease, the company doesn’t make any money,” Dorsey says. “Other people are taking from you.”
“If it’s got value, people will steal it,” says J.J. Smith, president of Valley Proteins. “And grease has value.”
For about 60 years, Valley Proteins has been turning discarded fats, oils and grese into raw materials for everything from cosmetics to plastics.
Most of it is used as a cheap way to add calories to animal feed. High prices for feed grains have pulled the price of grease up with them.
But these days, there’s a new player in the grease business. With oil prices high, demand has been growing from companies that turn that used grease into biodiesel fuel.
Smith says the extra demand from biofuels is a key reason the price of grease has doubled in the past year, and nearly quadrupled since 2006.
“There’s a finite amount of fat available in the United States,” he says. “So, when you only had animal feeders demanding the product, [the market] was much more in balance.”
More demand means higher prices – which means more incentive to steal. Smith suspects, but can’t prove, that his competitors are the ones stealing.
From Washington Post, Cooking-oil theft: Arlington police charge two with increasingly common crime:
For months, used cooking oil has been disappearing from containers behind Washington area restaurants. Thieves have been siphoning tens of thousands of gallons a month and reselling it, authorities say.
Arlington County police last week arrested two men at Ballston Common Mall they say were trying just such a scheme.
Cooking-oil theft is on the rise as the evolving biodiesel market has led to an increase in its value, according to Detective Crystal Nosal, an Arlington police spokeswoman.
“Police departments in the region are becoming more involved to remedy this problem,” Nosal said.
Industry insiders say the Ballston arrests mark a major breakthrough in combating an emerging form of commodity theft.
“It’s a brand-new crime,” said Steve Blankenship, regional manager of Charlottesville-based Greenlight Biofuels, which buys used oil from restaurants. “And it’s happening on an unbelievable scale.” He said the oil can sell on the street for as much as $4 per gallon.
Fa De Zheng, 36, of Oxon Hill and Ming Gang Lu, 38, of New York were charged with grand larceny and related charges on Oct. 7. Police say they were breaking into an oil container used by a client of Greenlight Biofuels.
At least four restaurants serviced by Greenlight Biofuels have been hit, police said.
From KFSN-TV Fresno, Men arrested after S. Valley fruit theft”:
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Two men are in jail, accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of fruit from a Tulare County orchard.
Sheriff’s deputies say Raymark Pimentel and Lucio Figueroa took $7 thousand worth of pomegranates from Paramount Farming Company in the Seville area.
Detectives found evidence that helped them recover all of the fruit.
This strange lemon tree theft occurred a few months ago in Wisconsin… Lemon Tree Theft Leaves Owner Puzzled:
An overnight theft of a beloved lemon tree has left Madison police and the victim on the city’s East Side baffled.
“Still, absolutely in shock” is how Hanna Cook-Wallace said she feels after her potted tree was stolen.
“It’s bizarre. It’s bizarre.” she said.
They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Hanna Cook-Wallace can’t as her lemon tree is now gone.
“The tree has been on the porch every summer for the last 20 years, getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said.
Cook-Wallace got the Meyer lemon tree as a gift. She said it reminded her of her childhood in southern California.
“This lemon tree, Charlie Brown, he was called, lives on the porch all summer long and then we bring him in during the winter,” she said.
Every year, Charlie Brown produced many yellow fruits — enough to make “one lemon meringue pie per summer.” she said.
But before Cook-Wallace could bake this year’s pie, brazen thieves struck and took the tree from the porch on her home in the 1600 block of Riverside Drive, near Williamson Street.
“I don’t know. Who would steal a lemon tree?” she said.
Police said that they’re likewise baffled by the theft, but they believe this was a deliberate act.
“It’s very bizarre. I really believe that someone knew that this tree existed and of course, planned on doing this by way of having the vehicle available,” said police spokesman Howard Payne.