California’s Nut Mafia Strikes Again

The soaring price of walnuts makes nut theft a lucrative crime. Insert your own "that's nuts!" joke here

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Noah Berger / Bloomberg / Getty Images

A farmer stands among walnut trees on his Linden, California, U.S., farm on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.

Rich Paloma, a former policeman turned reporter, doubts that the string of nut heists in California’s Central Valley are isolated incidents. If anything, they’re the work of a “nut mafia,” he said in an interview with NPR.

If so, the shadowy network hit the jackpot with its latest heist: Three trailers loaded with $400,000 worth of walnuts. The thieves cut a hole through a local orchard’s fence, hitched the trailers to a getaway vehicle (Paloma suspects it was a tractor) and vanished down a California highway.

According to NPR, the heists coincide with a huge jump in the price of walnuts from 60 cents to $2 a pound. With the value of walnut stockpiles tripling in price, the nut mafia may not be such a nutty idea after all.