A wild, six-year Canadian maple syrup saga finally came to a sticky end for a man convicted of stealing $18.7 million worth of the sweet stuff. On April 24, a judge sentenced Avik Caron, 43, to a five-year prison term and a $1.2 million fine for his crimes.
Opportunity Too Sweet To Pass Up
Maple syrup is a booming business in Canada. In fact, syrup producers tapped into a $400 million harvest in 2016, according to Food in Canada. The business is so successful, there’s a black market for the delicious syrup. That’s where Caron’s story begins.
According to Caron’s own testimony, back in 2011, he took advantage of a sweet opportunity when the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers starting using his wife’s warehouse for storage.
Caron and a few others loaded up a truck with the barrels and moved them to a sugaring shack. The group emptied the barrels and refilled them with lake water. Then, the crooks took the stolen sweetness, repackaged it and sold it on the black market.
Unbelievably, this operation affected 9,571 barrels of syrup—or 3,000 tons—worth more than $18 million. More than 10,000 producers were drained dry by the criminals.
By 2012, though, officials got wise to the theft and the syrup smugglers were arrested.
Judge Neither Sweet Nor Sympathetic
In his sentencing of Caron, the judge decided a harsh sentence and fine seemed appropriate, despite his guilty plea. “The Court regards this matter as the perfect illustration of the maxim, ‘Opportunity makes the thief’,’” the judge said during sentencing.
The judge said the sentence came from two factors:
- The amount of money lost by the producers.
- A lack of concern for public health by storing the stolen syrup in non-approved containers.
Evidence from the case also showed people got sick after eating the stolen syrup, according to the judge.
Crook Loses Cool In Court
Upon hearing his sentence, Caron claimed his guilty plea was a mistake and demanded a new trial. The judge refused, causing Caron to lose his cool. He swore at the judge, banged on the prisoner’s box and struggled with a guard who worked to restrain him.
With time already served since his arrest, Caron should only serve just over three years in jail.
What a strange, sticky mess.