Police in Los Angeles found something unusual when they pulled over 69-year-old Dionicio Fierros — lemons. More than 800 pounds of them.
Police said the man had stolen the lemons from a nearby farm, NBC San Diego reported. Police said Fierros was pulled over on Friday morning, and inside his car officers found the fresh lemons they say had been taken from a nearby farm.
Authorities said Fierros’ arrest was part of a larger investigation into agricultural theft in the area, but they did not say if the 69-year-old was suspected in any other robberies in the area.
Theft from local farms has long been a problem in Southern California. In 2011, the New York Times reported on the spate of robberies that had been taking place as thieves targeted everything from grapes to bees to expensive farm equipment. At the time, the crime wave was fueled by the high unemployment rate and creeping drug epidemic in the area.
“While other states have their own agricultural intrigue — cattle rustlers in Texas, tomato takers in Florida — few areas can claim a wider variety of farm felons than California, where ambushes on everything from almonds to beehives have been reported in recent years. Then there is the hardware: diesel fuel, tools and truck batteries regularly disappear in the Central Valley, the state’s agricultural powerhouse, where high unemployment, foreclosures and methamphetamine abuse have made criminals more desperate, officials say.”
Authorities in Southern California said the farm thieves did not discriminate. There were thefts in poverty-stricken areas as farm raiders searched for crops and copper to sell, and well-to-do areas like the Napa Valley, where thieves targeted the grape crops that fueled the local wine industry.
Some of the thieves were even farmers themselves, sometimes caught stealing from the larger and more well-producing farms, the New York Times report noted.
Because many of these crimes take place in rural and sparsely populated areas, local police departments have set up task forces specifically to investigate farm thefts. It appears to be one of these investigations that nabbed the alleged lemon thief last week.
The alleged lemon theft garnered national headlines this week, largely for the unusual nature of the crime and the high volume of lemons that had been stolen.
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The alleged lemon thief was booked into the Indio Jail and later released after posting a $10,000 bond. Dionicio Fierros was driving on Grapefruit Boulevard when he was pulled over.