photo by Barış Muratoğlu via getty images, illustration by Lauren Kolm

Police are calling it "grand theft avocado"

Rebecca Firkser
June 19, 2017

It’s no secret that avocado prices are out of control. The inflated value of everyone’s favorite green fruit was likely what caused three men to steal approximately $300,000 worth of avocados from the produce farm in California where they worked. Authorities were tipped off to the avocado theft after the men were seen selling the fruit for cash from their place of work over the past few months. Joseph Valenzuela, Carlos Chavez, and Rahim Leblanc were arrested last week on suspicion of grand theft fruit (or what some police are calling “grand theft avocado”). It is still unknown exactly how many pounds of fruit the men stole. The story broke during a week of weird avocado stories—when a woman allegedly found a bullet in her avocado and a New York deli clerk was pelted with rock-hard avocados that broke his jaw. 

“They are in demand. Everybody loves avocados,” Sargent John Franchi of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office told the LA Times. The thieves’ knowledge of the fruit’s popularity coupled with a recent distribution change at their produce facility, Mission Produce, likely led them to commit the crime. After speaking with the authorities, the LA Times reports that Mission Produce had recently started delivering customer orders as opposed to requiring the produce be picked up at the site. Some customers were unaware of the change and continued to arrive at the facility to pick up their orders. Authorities claim that Valenzuela, Chavez, and Leblanc decided to sell avocados to customers for cash at a discount and then pocket the profits.

Steve Barnard, president of Mission Produce, told the LA Times that a box of their avocados typically sells for $50. The men were selling boxes for $20 or $30 each. Considering the rising price of avocados—Bloomberg reports that US Department of Agriculture data show Hass avocados retailing in the US for $1.27 each in April 2017, which is up from 98 cents from the year prior—customers were likely happy for a discount, and not quick to question the drop. However, suspicions still arose around the men’s sale of avocados from Mission Produce in May of this year, and the men were arrested last Wednesday. They're currently being held at $250,000 bail each.

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