The Story Behind That Multi-Million Dollar Canadian Syrup Heist Is Incredibly Bonkers
Back in 2012, the world was delighted by a crime story that was so strange, it was no wonder that it was quickly optioned into a movie: the Great Maple Syrup Heist. In case you don't remember, between 2011 and 2012 thieves—25 of whom went to trial in 2015, in a case that is ongoing—were able to steal over 540,000 gallons of pure maple syrup from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ), which was in the process of building a new storage facility. During construction, a portion of Quebec's maple syrup reserves were moved to a rented warehouse space. A full-time guard lived on site. That guard's one of the people who went to trial! Vanity Fair took a deep dive into to the case as well as the FPAQ as a whole, and it's a longread worth sticking around for.
Earlier this year, thieves stole $100,000 worth of Costco-brand maple syrup from an airplane shipping container outside Montreal. Clearly, this is an epidemic, and it's easy to see why: Due to the FPAQ controlling about 75 percent of the world's supply of maple syrup, the sticky brown goo is worth more per barrel than crude oil. The FPAQ accepts a fixed amount of syrup from producers in the province every year. While some of it is sold immediately, some is kept in reserve in case supplies dip in future years. The FPAQ sets the price for the rest of the world, basically. It's easy to see why critics call the FPAQ a cartel. It's also easy to see why thieves would set their sights on maple syrup: It was worth about 13 times as much as crude oil at the time of the robbery. If they could get it out of Quebec and sell it illegally, they'd find buyers looking to score massive quantities of below-market-price syrup.
The craziest thing about the heist is they nearly stole more than 12.5 percent of Quebec's syrup reserve. The only thing that gave them away was an empty barrel. The thieves had been moving the barrels off-site, syphoning their contents, refilling with water, and putting them back into storage. They became brazen and began siphoning and refilling at the storage site. However, they must have gotten careless because one went unfilled and was discovered during the once-a-year inventory check. As the Vanity Fair story tells us:
The story goes on to note that most of the syrup was eventually returned to the reserve, but it should be a lesson to the producers in New York State, Vermont, and elsewhere: Pick up the slack, lest there someday be a year without maple syrup.
Head over to Vanity Fair to read the whole thing. For a story about syrup, it's juicy as hell.