Men accused of stealing over $400,000 worth of walnuts

This Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 photo shows the outside of GoldRiver Orchards, a walnut grower and processor, in Escalon, Calif. The company fell victim in October 2013 to a brazen heist when thieves made off with 140,000 pounds of processed walnuts worth $400,000. Thieves cut through wooden fence posts in the dead of night, hooked up a truck to gondola trailers brimming with nuts and drove off. (AP Photo/Scott Smith)

January 19, 2014 11:46:38 AM PST
San Joaquin County authorities have arrested two men on suspicion of stealing more than $400,000 worth of walnuts from an Escalon orchard.

The Stockton Record reports that 36-year-old Pedro Becerra and 33-year-old Mario Oheda were arrested on suspicion of auto theft, grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime. Authorities say Becerra is also suspected of stealing two tankers from Modesto.

Investigators believe the two men stole double semi-truck trailers containing more than 140,000 pounds of walnuts from Gold River Orchards in October.

In California's Central Valley, law enforcement agencies are reporting more thefts of nut crops, which have increased in value amid growing demand.

Growers and nut processors formed a taskforce in October to seek the advice of law enforcement and take steps to protect their products.