Two truckloads of walnuts, worth around $300,000 in total, have gone missing out of Northern California, and local deputies are after a man with a Russian accent who they say is the prime suspect.
Sheriff's deputies in Tehama County, an area noted for its walnut orchards, got a call from a freight brokerage firm on Oct. 26, reporting that a shipment of 42,000 pounds (19,050 kilograms) of unprocessed walnuts was still unaccounted for two days after it was scheduled to arrive in Miami, according to the Record Searchlight of Redding, Calif.
While deputies searched for the missing cargo, they found out that another shipment of 40,000 pounds (18,144 kg) of processed walnuts, also originating from Tehama County and supposedly headed for San Antonio, had gone missing after being picked up on Oct. 23.
In both cases, the man who showed up with a semi truck and a legitimate-looking purchase order was described as a 6-foot-2, 198-pound (90 kg) white male with a "very distinct Russian accent," said Lt. Dave Greer of the Tehama County Sheriff's Office.
The 40,000-pound load of processed walnuts is valued at $225,000 and the 42,000-pound load of unprocessed walnuts is worth about $73,000, Greer told Life's Little Mysteries.
The trucking company contracted to ship the walnuts to San Antonio confirmed that the man with the Russian accent was not the man who was hired to do the job, despite the fact that he reportedly had convincing purchase orders.
The man is believed to have used a white semi truck with a decal on the passenger door that reads "InTech Transportation" in both alleged walnut thefts, Greer said.
Though the recent heists may seem bizarre, cargo theft is a common and costly problem in the United States.
According to the website of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the crime costs the United States around $30 billion annually. And a recent report from CargoNet, a cargo theft-monitoring network connected with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, found that the crime happens in California nearly twice as often as in any other part of the country. The most frequently stolen item, says the report, is food.
Why the alleged thief targeted walnuts is yet unknown, but the tree nuts seem to be a versatile food. They have nearly twice as many antioxidants as other commonly consumed nuts, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, and a recent study, partially funded by the California Walnut Commission, found they may improve sperm quality.