Top 10 Recent Ambitious Food Heists

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As we reported earlier, the trial involving one of the world’s premier counterfeit wine collections consisting of some of the most celebrated wines of the last century is in its 2nd week in a Manhattan federal court.


Thieves are becoming creative now. Some are stealing food, instead of the usual money and jewelries.

Meanwhile, French police have broken up a scam in which fake bottles of a top French wine were sold that netted thieves up to $2.75 million.

Two Italian wine merchants have been arrested and are suspected of selling 400 fake bottles. France has requested the extradition of the two Italians — a father and son — arrested in their home country.

The BBC reports bottles of poor-quality wine were relabeled as Romanee-Conti, a Burgundy that is one of the world’s finest and most expensive wines.

Romanee-Conti, like other Burgundy reds made from the pinot noir grape, is very exclusive and produced on a small estate.

According to French prosecutors, the counterfeit labels were treated with wax to make them look older, and the result was so good that the bottles were near-perfect copies of the real thing.

The French investigation reached six European countries, including Britain and Italy. Dijon prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare said:

“Other suspects are being sought so that we can present this entire counterfeiting network in evidence.”

In 2011 a 12-bottle case of the 1990 vintage went for $297,000 at auction.

In a another recent report from Sky News, shoplifting and organised retail crime are on the rise with food among the most targeted products.

Cheese tops the list and has been labelled a “high-risk food” because it is the most stolen food item across the globe, according to a report.

The dairy item’s loss percentage (3.9%) is more than three times the global average (1.29%).

Shoplifting and organized retail crime cost the UK high street an estimated £4.9m during the past 12 months, according to the Centre for Retail Research. The amount of stolen retail goods increased by 6.2% in the year.

Neil Matthews, vice-president of Checkpoint Systems, a retail security firm, said: “Compared to the 2010 figures, loss among the high-risk food lines has shot up by more than the global average, evidence that they are increasingly being targeted by shoplifters.”

A UK report also showed theft by UK employees represents 36.1% of the total loss.

As the Guardian points out, from baked beans to caviar, food thefts are on the rise. While cheese is the most-stolen food, walnuts, honey and tomatoes are also big business.

Here are 10 Recent Ambitious Food Heists, courtesy of the Guardian


The world’s favorite choco-hazelnut spread is not safe from thieves either.


1) Nutella

Perhaps better described as a binge than a theft, thieves in Germany made off with £13,600 of Nutella this April after taking the jars from a parked trailer. Seven pallets were taken, amounting to 6,875 large jars – or 27m calories – of the chocolate and hazelnut spread.

They could be part of a complex international network of Nutella thieves; in March it was claimed $5,000 (about £3,000) of Nutella goes missing a week from Columbia University’s dining facilities. One student council representative said staff “couldn’t really believe … how much they were going through the stuff.”


You’ve got to be cheesing me! Cheese now is being stolen. Let’s just hope the thieves have lots of rats to feed.


2) Cheese

In 2009, a man and woman in New Zealand were arrested after being caught with boxes containing 20 1kg blocks of vacuum-packed cheddar, stolen that morning from a train. As the police chased the couple, cheese was flung out of the vehicle on to the road, in what will probably go down as one of the more bizarre car chases in history. It is said that cheese is the most stolen food type.

One report in 2011 went so far as to label the product “high risk” after finding £4.9m of it was stolen in the UK that year alone. It is a problem in the US as well. This March, a man was caught driving an 18-wheel truck loaded with $200,000 worth of stolen muenster cheese from Wisconsin. Veniamin Balika was planning to sell the Amish-made cheese on the black market.


How much do you love pancakes that you’d have the courage to steal truckloads of maple syrup? Don’t worry though. Canada reassures the world that they have more Maple Syrup to feed the world’s demands.


3) Maple syrup

In a heist that could probably go down in history as Canada’s Great Train Robbery, thieves stole £12.5m of maple syrup from a storage facility, threatening the very lifeblood of the nation. The crime took place last August in the province of Quebec. Anne-Marie Granger Godbout from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers told the Reuters news agency: “I can assure you there will be no shortage in maple syrup.” Canada can only imagine how thankful we are for that fact.


People who steal walnuts are nut jobs! That’s for sure!


4) Walnuts

Last October, Northern California suffered the loss of 80,000 pounds (36,287kg) of walnuts, valued at around $300,000, which were stolen in two instalments over a period of days. The walnuts were collected for delivery but sadly never made it to their destination.

Police believed it was the work of a “suspicious delivery driver” with a strong Russian accent. Walnut theft has been on the rise recently – only last week, $50,000 worth of the nuts were stolen from another farm in California. A rise in demand in Asia, matched by a reduction in the number of trees, has caused a spike in the price of walnuts, making them an increasingly valuable commodity.


A couple runs off without paying their restaurant bill at L’Autre-Pied


5) Fine dining

Some thieves like their food hot. However, not content with a Gregg’s steak bake, one young couple racked up a £572 bill at Michelin-starred restaurant L’Autre Pied in Marylebone before running off without paying. Adding to the air of glamorous mischief, the table was booked under the name Lupin – presumably after the fictional French villain Arsène Lupin.

The culprit, a 27-year-old Latvian man named Janis Nords, was eventually arrested by police while trying to scarper from another dinner worth £1,022 at L’Oranger in St James’s. The young film-maker admitted nine offences, claiming he only did it to impress his girlfriend, who told police she was “unaware” of the scam.


We’re not even surprised that chocolates are on the top list of food thieves love to target. We can imagine ourselves doing the same crime.


6) Chocolate

Most of us can only dream of owning 18 tonnes of chocolate (and we do), but for thieves in Austria, that dream became a reality when they pilfered 33 pallets of delicious milk chocolate from a factory in Bludenz. The authorities only realised that the paperwork for the vehicle and driver were forged when the real truck turned up later.


We do expect Caviar would end up on the most stolen food list. It’s very expensive and even banned in other countries.


7) Caviar

The delicacy of choice for Bond villains, as well as being very popular with Russians during new year celebrations, caviar is a very valuable dish indeed. In 2005, while the new year festivities continued, thieves in Moscow made off with 845 cans of the stuff, which they took from a lorry. The total value of the heist? A whopping $470,000.


Stealingception – Thieves are now stealing the bottled honey that we have stolen from the hardworking bees.


8) Honey

Honey is an increasingly sought-after product. Earlier this month, sweet-toothed thieves broke into the Holland & Barrett store in Bodmin, Cornwall, and took more than 100 jars of expensive manuka honey. It is not just manuka’s supposed anti-bacterial properties they were after; large jars can retail for up to £50.

In August, one Tesco manager decided manuka honey was so desirable it should be security-tagged. “The fact is that you have people with expensive tastes but not necessarily the money in their pockets to pay for them,” he told the Daily Mail.


Meat, especially beef, is not safe from thieves as well.


9) Meat

Police in Canada weren’t looking for the usual beef with criminals last month, after 40,000 pounds (about 18,000kg) of meat were stolen from a truck in Hamilton. The suspects stole a tractor-trailer load from a truck yard, making off with $100,000 worth of beef in the process. As local papers report, the beef was sadly never recovered. Earlier that month, a 21-year-old in the same town was caught legging it from a shop with $250 of steaks.


Due to bad harvest in Mexico, the price for tomato went up, triggering thieves to put them on target.


10) Tomatoes

In 2011, rocketing tomatoes prices led to – you guessed it – a rise in thefts of the fruit. In Florida, one gang of thieves stole six tractor loads of tomatoes in a heist worth $300,000, which also included a truck full of cucumbers and frozen meat. The price rises were caused by a bad harvest in Mexico. Similar circumstances have led to thefts of soy beans and corn.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper