Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist (French: vol de sirop d'érable du siècle, lit.'maple syrup heist of the century') was the theft over several months in 2011 and 2012 of nearly 3,000 tonnes (3,000 long tons; 3,300 short tons) of maple syrup, valued at C$18.7 million from a storage facility in Quebec. The facility was operated by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (French: Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec, FPAQ) who represent 77% of the global maple syrup supply.[1] Adjusted for inflation (2020), the heist is the most valuable in Canadian history.[2]

OriginsEdit

 
Syrup production in a Quebec sugar house (2005)

In 1966, a group of maple syrup producers in Quebec participated in a joint plan to collectively market maple syrup. This effort inspired the formation of a larger agreement all across Quebec which became known as the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

The FPAQ maintains a strategic reserve of maple syrup, officially known as the International Strategic Reserve (ISR) across multiple warehouses in rural Quebec towns.

TheftEdit

Over the course of several months between 2011 and 2012, the contents of 9,571 barrels, valued at C$18.7M, were stolen in a suspected insider job from a FPAQ facility in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. The syrup was stored in unmarked white metal barrels inspected only once a year. Thieves used trucks to transport barrels to a remote sugar shack, where they siphoned off the maple syrup, refilled the barrels with water, then returned them to the facility.[3] As the operation progressed, the thieves started siphoning syrup directly off barrels in the reserve without refilling them. The stolen syrup was trucked to the south (Vermont) and east (New Brunswick), where it was trafficked in many small batches to reduce suspicion. It was typically sold to legitimate syrup distributors who were unaware of its origin.

Discovery and investigationEdit

In July 2012, the FPAQ took its annual inventory of syrup barrels. Inspector Michel Gauvreau started climbing up the barrels and nearly fell, expecting 600-pound (270 kg) barrels but finding them to be empty.[3] Police later recovered hundreds of barrels of the syrup from an exporter based in Kedgwick, New Brunswick.[4]

Between 18 and 20 December 2012, police arrested 17 men related to the theft.

PerpetratorsEdit

  • Richard Vallières (b. 1978), accused ringleader, sentenced in April 2017 to eight years in prison plus a C$9.4 million fine, with an extension to fourteen years if the fine is not paid.[5] Later[when?] the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that was excessive and lowered the fine to $1 million. The Supreme Court has since reversed that decision and reinstated the original fine.[6]
  • Raymond Vallières (b. 1954), father of Richard, convicted of possession and was sentenced to two years in jail minus one day, followed by 3 years of probation.[7]
  • Étienne St-Pierre (b. 1943), a New Brunswick-based syrup reseller, was sentenced to two years in jail minus one day, 3 years of probation and an $850,000+ fine.
  • Avik Caron (b. 1974), the insider whose spouse owned the FPAQ warehouse, sentenced to five years in prison plus a C$1.2 million fine.[8]
  • Sébastien Jutras, a trucker involved in the transport of stolen syrup, served eight months in prison.[9]

In popular cultureEdit

The theft was featured in the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money in season 1, episode 5, "The Maple Syrup Heist".

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Rita Trichur (5 April 2011). "Quebec: Maple syrup's strategic reserve". The Globe and Mail.
  2. ^ Potvin, Steve (January 14, 2020). "The great Canadian maple syrup heist". www.history101.com. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b Rich Cohen (December 2016). "Inside Quebec's Great, Multi-Million Dollar Maple Syrup Heist". Vanity Fair.
  4. ^ "Police seize hundreds of barrels of syrup possibly linked to Quebec maple heist". CBC. 3 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Ringleader in maple syrup heist gets 8 years in prison, $9.4M fine". CBC. 28 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Canada's Supreme Court upholds C$9m fine on maple syrup thief". BBC. 1 April 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  7. ^ Becerta, Alita (20 April 2020). "Canada's millionaire maple syrup heist". Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Sweet revenge for Quebec maple syrup producers: Thief gets five years for role in $18.7 million heist". CBC. 24 April 2017.
  9. ^ Graeme Hamilton (25 October 2016). "With burner phones and $200K in hidden cash, plot to steal maple syrup had look of a major drug deal". National Post.