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Kristin Olsen

In sophisticated shell game, thieves hit Central Valley nut growers

In sophisticated shell game, thieves hit Central Valley nut growers

The truck company appeared legitimate, though the paperwork was a bit sloppy. But after a few calls, the broker told Horizon Nut Co. to load 45,000 pounds of shelled pistachios and send it to the East Coast.

Hours later, the trailer was empty in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port area, and about $450,000 worth of nuts had vanished into the shady market for stolen cargo.

The heist in mid-November was one of 31 reported last year in California's sprawling Central Valley, a $9 million rural crime wave that has caught California's lucrative nut industry and its cargo shippers off guard.

“We basically handed the load over to the driver,” said Kirk Squire, grower...

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