The Great Maple Syrup Heist

By: David Martin

“Police in Québec have announced the arrest of three men in the theft of six million pounds of maple syrup from a provincial warehouse…” — The Globe and Mail, December 19, 2012

From the food crime files of the Sûreté du Québec

At first it was just another food flavoring heist, much like the strawberry jam container caper of 1997 or the individual ketchup packet robbery of 2003. But it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary theft. This was the big time — six million pounds of liquid gold.

Sure, my partner Bill and I had been involved with maple syrup cases before. More than once we’d done a stakeout at a local IHOP. But those were instances of someone passing off corn syrup as the real McCoy, petty crimes at best.

This, however, was organized condiment crime on a scale heretofore unimagined. As part of the Sûreté du Québec’s Spreads, Jams and Syrups Division, we’d heard stories from veteran officers about jam running in the 1980s when the Canadian dollar was down to 70 cents and no one could afford to legitimately import Smucker’s from the US. But even with the widespread black market and jam and jelly speedboats plying the St. Lawrence River smuggling routes, things never got as bad as they had today with the Great Maple Syrup Heist.

When it all started, we literally didn’t have a clue. After all, there were no maple syrup shortages and no one was complaining about questionable syrup quality. The sap was still flowing and cans of syrup were still on the shelves. The only saps were us, sitting there unaware of the giant illegal operation being carried on right under our tongues.

About three months ago, we got the word from our boss, Chief Inspector D’Erable. He’d gotten a tip from one of our regular snitches, a maple syrup junkie named Sticky Eddie, that he’d seen something funny outside a small diner in East End Montreal.

According to Eddie, some guys unloaded two barrels of high-grade syrup at the back entrance of the restaurant without so much as an invoice or a bill of lading. Eddie said something to the driver who told him to keep his mouth shut and tossed him a couple of cans of Laurentian syrup to keep him quiet.

But like any junkie, Sticky Eddie went through those two cans in a weekend binge of pancakes, waffles and crepes. After the sugar high wore off, Eddie needed more and he came looking for us, hoping to trade information for some more maple nectar.

And then we got our next big break. A local community organization was holding a big fundraising pancake breakfast and someone phoned in an anonymous tip.

It seemed that the organizers weren’t buying their maple syrup by the can. Someone had offered them an entire barrel at an unbelievably low price. So we decided to be there when the barrel was delivered and check out the guys delivering it.

It all went down without a hitch, without a shot being fired and without even a drop of liquid gold being spilled. The three delivery guys confessed on the spot that they had been pilfering barrels from the producers and selling them to retailers and wholesalers at a discount.

And that was the end of the Great Maple Syrup Heist. Thanks to the work of our crack corps of pancake toppings police, Canadian consumers were never even aware of how close the country came to a nationwide breakfast crisis of unimaginable proportions. But thankfully, at least for now, the maple syrup continues to flow freely from sea to sea to sea, and wherever pancake breakfasts are held.



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