Central Valley walnut farmers and law enforcement are working together to apprehend thieves that are disguising themselves as truck drivers in order to steal truckloads of nuts.
Almost 150 farmers, processors, and law enforcement officers have begun working together to stop these nut thieves.
The fake truck drivers are showing up to nut processing plants across the Central Valley of California with what appears to be genuine paperwork, police told CBS San Francisco.
These thieves then drive away from the plant without any suspicion – that is, until the real truck driver shows up to pick up their load.
“This area has been quickly ambushed with cargo theft,” said Scott Cornell, an Agricultural Theft Specialist.
Investigators say the heists may be part cyber-crime. It’s believed criminals hacked into farmers’ computer servers to generate delivery paperwork and time their pickups before the real drivers are supposed to arrive.
Thus far, 31 truckloads have been stolen this year. These 31 truckloads were worth a total of $4.6 million.
On the contrary, Alpine Pacific Nut Company has stepped up their cybersecurity to avoid being the target of agricultural theft. They have never had a load stolen.
“Every driver that comes into our office is videotaped coming in here. In addition, we’ll also take a still shot of the driver along with a thumbprint of the driver. We’ll get their photo identification and all that information is compiled into our database,” said Alpine Pacific’s Brock Middleton.
“Make sure you know exactly who you’re doing business with and are they who they say they are,” Cornell advised.
Investigators think that some of the stolen goods have been shipped overseas, making it very difficult to track and recover.
On Monday, a bill passed in California Assembly aimed to detect and track cargo theft in order to prevent incidents like those happening in Central Valley.