Grand theft avocado: 3 arrested in $300K theft of fruit

Joseph Valenzuela, Carlos Chavez, and Rahim Leblanc. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office via AP)

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) – Police are calling it grand theft avocado.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in California says three workers at an Oxnard-based produce company were arrested Wednesday in the theft of up to $300,000 worth of avocados.

Thirty-eight-year-old Joseph Valenzuela, 28-year-old Carlos Chavez and 30-year-old Rahim Leblanc are each charged with grand theft of fruit and are being held on bails of $250,000. It’s unclear whether they have attorneys.

Detectives began investigating the men in May after getting a tip that they were conducting unauthorized cash sales of avocados from an Oxnard-area ripening facility owned by Mission Produce. Detectives say they obtained evidence confirming the scheme and believe it has been going on for several months.

The sheriff’s department says the company estimates the loss of the avocados at around $300,000.

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