The 21st Century has barely gotten started in the scheme of time, but there have already been plenty of startling food crimes for the ages! Warning: These outrageous switcharoos, heists and capers could have you looking at your food suspiciously from here on out:
1. Where’s the Beef?
Two men were sentenced to jail in England in 2017 for committing a massive food fraud of a truly shocking nature: trying to pass off 30 tons of horse flesh to UK distributors and consumers as beef.
“It’s difficult to recall now the conditions that made this horsemeat scandal headline news every day five years ago, but it made an impact on the public in general,” Judge Owen Davies said in his ruling (according to The Guardian), which imposed a four and a half year sentence for Andronicos Sideras and three and a half years for his co-conspirator Ulrik Nielsen. “They were suspicious of the food that they had — it extended far beyond meat. The confidence in the food chain was affected adversely, and the share prices of big supermarkets were affected, and it is difficult to recreate the feeling of anxiety that the public had at the time this all emerged.”
2. That’s Nuts!
An estimated $10 million in California-grown almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and pecans were stolen right off of trucks in the San Joaquin Valley in a six-month period between late 2015 and April 2016, reported Quartz. Because this happened in fertile farmland, it was difficult for authorities to spot any potential nut thieves on the road.
“I can pull over a car with 20 lbs. of methamphetamine in it and that driver’s going to jail,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told the publication. “I pull over 30,000 lbs. of pistachios, I have to prove that those are stolen, otherwise the guy goes on his way.”
The obvious question is, where did those nuts end up?
3. Sippin’ on Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is outrageously expensive, but some thieves decided they needed almost $18 million worth of the precious liquid in 2012 from a storage facility northeast of Montreal, Canada. The crime amounted to about 10 percent of the harvest that year in Quebec, according to CBC News. Vanity Fair called the caper “one of the great agricultural crimes in all of history.”
4. Fruits, Vegetables and Food Stamps
Miami Herald reported that a 2017 bust in Florida of a produce market that would exchange EBT food stamp cards for cash for a percentage amounted to almost $13 million in illegal transactions, making it the largest EBT-related fraud ever attempted in the United States.
5. The Great Fajita Heist
Approximately $1.2 million worth of delicious fajitas were surreptitiously ordered from a South Texas food service company through a man’s government job and resold on the black market over the course of nine long years. Perpetrator Gilberto Escamilla was finally brought down in 2017 for the tiniest of reasons: authorities found fajita packets in his home.
“If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit,” Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz told The Brownsville Herald.
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