Every New Englander knows that nothing compares to real maple syrup. But what are you willing to do for the best thing that ever happened to breakfast? As we get ready to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day, we’re asking ourselves that very question. Does $9 million and eight years in prison sound like too much? Well, if you were involved in the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist, that’s exactly what it cost.
Don’t believe us? Then let us tell you about the stickiest crime of the century.
Valuable and Delicious
It might seem like an odd thing to steal, but there’s a lot of money to be made in black-market maple syrup. Canada, specifically the province of Quebec, produces about 72% of the maple syrup sold worldwide, so it’s kind of a big deal there. Making maple syrup relies on weather and environmental conditions, so the yield can vary from year to year. To regulate the market, syrup producers in Quebec came together in 1966 to form the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ). FPAQ has a tight hold on the syrup industry in Canada, including controlling the price. Still don’t see why maple syrup is worth stealing? In 2018, the price of one barrel was $1,200.
Now that we have some of the background, let’s get to the story. Over the course of several months in 2011 and 2012, a group of thieves stole 9,571 barrels of maple syrup from FPAQ’s strategic reserve (which is the most Canadian thing of all time). In the end, the thieves made off with $18.7 million in maple syrup. That’s $14 million in American dollars.
The facility the thieves stole from was only inspected once a year, so their crime went undetected for months. After a while, they got careless, which was how they were caught. At the start, they would steal the barrels, empty them, refill them with water, and put them back. When they weren’t caught for several months, they got lazy and just took to siphoning the syrup without refilling the barrels. A full maple syrup barrel is about 600 pounds, so they are very stable and inspectors regularly climb on them. During his annual check, an inspector was surprised when a barrel he was climbing on nearly toppled over!
Authorities launched a major investigation and eventually caught the thieves. Unsuspecting legitimate distributors in Vermont and New Brunswick had been buying small batches from the thieves, which led police to the remaining stash. The thieves were sentenced to fines and prison time. The suspected ringleader received the heaviest sentence, serving eight years in prison and paying a fine of $9 million.
Celebrate National Maple Syrup Day with Breakfast at Swanton Street Diner!
We don’t think hard time is worth it for maple syrup. Luckily, it’s much easier to come to Swanton Street Diner for breakfast! We have all your favorites, plus plenty of maple syrup.