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Almond Rustlers Nabbed in California

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Almond Rustlers Nabbed in California


Almond Rustlers Nabbed in California

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Not long ago we told you about the nuttiest theft we'd ever heard of. Over the fourth of July weekend, two truckloads of almonds - that's 88,000 pounds of almonds - were stolen off the grounds of an almond company, Travaille and Phippen of Ripon, California.

Well, this week there is news from Sacramento of a break in the case of the stolen almonds. Two men have been picked up on charges of possessing stolen property, and they are evidently thought to be the masterminds of a stolen snack food ring.

Dave Phippen is one of the owners of Phippen and Travaille, and he joins us now by phone. What actually became of your two truckloads of almonds?

Mr. DAVE PHIPPEN (Travaille and Phippen): Well, the good news is that those tasty, nutritious almonds are back here at Travaille and Phippen, but the size of the load has diminished. We've got about five or six thousand pounds recovered from the total of 88,000.

SIEGEL: So where are the other tens of thousands of pounds of almonds?

Mr. PHIPPEN: Well, I think there's such a demand out there that whoever stole them had an easy time distributing them to willing buyers who didn't have any idea that they were stolen merchandise.

SIEGEL: Back in October, your brother Scott Phippen speculated that perhaps because the empty containers were near a terminal, the stolen nuts might have been headed overseas. Any idea?

Mr. PHIPPEN: That's what we suspected, but it turns out most of them were distributed locally here. What they were doing was taking them out of our containers and repackaging in smaller containers that just said California Almonds. I believe they were 25 pound boxes. So that made it easier to distribute to the local mom and pop stores and I guess showed us all how we should make almonds available to all of us. Huge demand out there.

SIEGEL: You're winning the silver lining award here. Does this suggest to you that the problem of nut rustling in the central valley is probably licked now, or are there more bad guys stealing almonds and walnuts?

Mr. PHIPPEN: Well, that remains to be learned. We know that we have the people that were distributing the almonds. I believe they have the truckers that were involved. What I don't know is if they've apprehended the folks that were supplying the truckers with the information as where there were loads prepared and ready to go. I'm hoping we catch those folks as well. But I'm not aware whether we have or not.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Phippen, congratulations on this -

Mr. PHIPPEN: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate your interest.

SIEGEL: - case of the stolen almonds. That's Dave Phippen, one of the owners of Phippen and Travaille, an almond company that suffered a theft of two entire truckloads of almonds. Two men have been arrested and are suspected of being the masterminds of a ring that was stealing nuts in the Central Valley of California.

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