The men – Rahim Leblanc, 30, and Carlos Chavez, 28, both of Oxnard; and Joseph Valenzuela, 38, of Santa Paula – were arrested for allegedly selling avocados stolen from Mission Produce, the company that employed them, according to the Associated Press.
The three suspects worked at a Mission Produce-owned ripening facility in Ventura County and had been selling the avocados for months to unsuspecting buyers who thought they were purchasing the fruit from Mission Produce, say detectives.
Police were tipped off to the alleged activity in May and the investigation came to a head last week after several search warrants were served at the the ripening facility and the men’s homes, resulting in their arrests on Wednesday, the Ventura County Star reports. The men were being held in jail in lieu of $250,000 bail each.
Avocado prices are soaring due to increased consumer demand in the U.S. and abroad, especially in China, according to Bloomberg Markets. “They are in demand. Everybody loves avocados,” Sgt. John Franchi of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office tells the LA Times.
Last summer, New Zealand was hit by an avocado crime wave that included 40 large-scale thefts in a six-month period. Avocados aren’t the only agricultural product to be targeted by thieves. Over the years everything from cheese in Wisconsin to maple syrup in Vermont to Christmas trees in Colorado have been pilfered by sticky-fingered criminals.