- Could you get any more Canadian?
Here it is. The single most Canadian story we’ve ever heard.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Richard Vallières must pay more than $7 million in damages for his part in one the biggest heists in Canadian history. Vallières is accused of being the ringleader behind a large-scale theft of maple syrup from Canada’s strategic maple syrup reserve.
Yes, Canada has a strategic maple syrup reserve. Because of course they do.
Their great caper of Vallières and his associates is today known as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist. In total, the gang pilfered more than 3,000 tons of gooey sugary goodness from the national stockpile.
Of course, they didn’t pour all of their haul on pancakes — though we have zero doubts that they did partake in some of the loot. Instead, they sold it forward, making a comfortable profit.
But if there’s anything Canada’s law enforcement officials won’t stand for, it’s maple syrup theft. As soon as the authorities became aware of the crime, the tracked Vallières down with a vengeance.
Let’s see how this all went down.
Setting Up the Syrup Stash
The sentence from the Supreme Court has been a long time coming. After all, the heist took place more than a decade ago, but to get the full picture, we have to travel all the way back to 1958.
On that year, a group of Quebecoise maple syrup producers banded together to collectively market their product. Other producers thought it was a good idea, and by 1966, they formed the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FQMSP).
In 2000, the FQMSP created Canada’s national strategic maple syrup reserve to safeguard its members from the syrup’s market price fluctuations. At the time, though, they clearly underestimated the levels of security such a reserve needed.
The FQMSP initially operated the syrup reserve out of multiple rented warehouses. They had few security measures, outside your basic locks.
But then again, that’s understandable. Who would go and steal maple syrup out of a national reserve.
Vallières and his gang would. And after the initial chuckle, it’s pretty easy to see why they would.
Maple syrup is expensive — ridiculously so. The current market price for a barrel of syrup stands at about $1,500, which is roughly 15 times that of crude oil.
Back in 2011, the price was even higher. So, Vallières’ crew saw a lucrative opportunity.
The Old Switcheroo
So, the crooks got to work. We’re not exactly clear on how they got access to the syrup warehouses, but that’s what they did.
They would then siphon the syrup out of the white metal barrels its stored in. To cover their tracks, they pulled the old switcheroo and pumped water into the barrels.
For a year, the plan worked like a charm. Nobody noticed the theft, because the barrels still had some kind of a liquid sloshing around inside them.
However, all maple syrup sales in Quebec are controlled by the FQMSP. So, Vallières’ crew shipped their loot to the neighboring province of New Brunswick for sale.
Their customers included both unaware legitimate businesses and black-market operators. In total, they pilfered 9,571 barrels of the good stuff, valued at nearly $15 million.
Appeals Upon Appeals
Eventually, however, the thieves’ luck ran out. In 2012, an inspector carrying out the national reserve’s annual inspection began to climb a stack of barrels.
Vallières’ gang must’ve gotten careless, because they’d forgotten to fill some syrup barrels with water. When the inspector grabbed what he thought was a 600-pound barrel, he nearly fell when it tumbled down to the ground — empty.
As soon as the scale of the theft was clear, the cops didn’t waste time in their investigation. Between December 18 and 20, 2012, they arrested 17 people connected to the case, including Vallières. In addition, they seized large numbers of vehicles and equipment, including forklifts, tanker trucks, and syrup processing kettles.
Fast forward a few years to 2016, and judge Raymond Provost sentenced Vallières to prison for eight year. He also ordered Vallières to pay $7.5 million in fines within 10 years, or face an additional six years behind bars.
However, there was once issue. Under Canadian law, if stolen goods can’t be returned to their rightful owner, the amount of the fine must equal the value of the goods.
Vallières argued that he’d only profited a measly $800,000 from his crimes. Upon appeal, the fines got slashed to reflect that amount.
This time, the FQMSP appealed and the case found its way to the Supreme Court. Now, they’ve reinstated the original $7 million fine.
It’s a hefty sum to pay. But we suppose that’s what you get for stepping in between Canadian and their beloved syrup.