Florida Man Accused Of Stealing More Than 4 Million Pounds Of Citrus

Sure, we’ve heard of crop theft in the past (tangerines, pumpkins, corn, onions) but when it comes to sheer volume of pilfered produce, a new report out of Florida takes the cake (if the cake is made out of oranges and grapefruit): authorities there have arrested a man accused of illegally obtaining more than four million pounds of citrus fruit — worth more than $500,000 — from five different people and companies.

An investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced by Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam in a press release Friday says the man allegedly started working his citrus scheme in March 2014, when he signed contracts with a local company allowing him to harvest citrus from three of its groves.

Authorities allege that in the months that follow, the suspect — who isn’t a licensed citrus dealer — harvested oranges and grapefruit from the groves, hauling off about 50,000 boxes full of fruit valued at $533,000, and, he admits, didn’t pay the company a cent, according to the press release.

He didn’t stop there, allegedly: officials say he snuck into a Bartow grove owned by an individual and took away 180 boxes of citrus. When he was busted, he wrote a check for only half of what the citrus was worth, the commissioner’s office said, and never paid the rest.

He also entered into a written agreement with a fifth grove, allegedly harvesting $6,000 worth of citrus that he didn’t pay for.

Police have arrested the suspect and charged him with fresh-squeezed organized scheme to defraud, one count of first-degree grand theft, two counts of third-degree grand theft and two counts of dealing in citrus without a license.

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