Grand theft avocado: $411,000 scam goes pear-shaped for gang

Three US men have been arrested after the theft of US$300,000 (NZD$411,000) worth of avocados.

The California trio - Carlos Chavez, 28, Rahim Leblanc, 30, and Joseph Valenzuela, 38 - were arrested on Thursday (NZT).

"We take these kinds of thefts seriously," said Sergeant John Franchi of the Ventura county sheriff's department.

Police believe the men were stealing and selling avocados to unsuspecting customers for several months.
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF/SUPPLIED

Police believe the men were stealing and selling avocados to unsuspecting customers for several months.

"It's a big product here and in California."

Avocado prices have surged in recent months, owing to a diminished avocado crop in California and Mexico and increased demand worldwide.

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Avocado prices have jumped as high as $7.50 each in NZ.
SUPPLIED

Avocado prices have jumped as high as $7.50 each in NZ.

 

US per capita consumption was only 0.5kg in 1989, but rose to 3.2kg by 2014, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Centre.

Police believe the men were stealing and selling avocados to unsuspecting customers for several months.

In late May, sheriff's detectives launched an investigation into allegations the men were receiving cash for the stolen avocados, Franchi said.

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"They were looking to make money," he said.

The men had been working at Mission Produce in Oxnard, 60km outside of Los Angeles.

 - The Telegraph, London

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