TIMELINE: The Sweetest Heist
WATCH ABOVE: A preview for 16×9’s “The Sweetest Heist.”
A timeline of events leading up to one of the largest thefts in Quebec history.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec) is founded.
Large increases in production lead to very unstable revenues for maple syrup producers.
The Federation creates the ‘Global Strategic Reserve’. The Reserve is a stockpile of syrup, meant to stabilize prices by ensuring there is a constant supply, even during poor harvest years.
Feb 28, 2002
The Federation becomes the central sales agency for all maple syrup sold in bulk in Quebec. It negotiates the price for syrup and demands stiff penalties from producers and buyers who don’t comply.
A quota system in implemented. Producers are limited in how much syrup they can make, in an attempt to control the growing surplus.
Feb 25, 2003
The Régie des Marchés Agricoles et Alimentaires du Québec (RMAAQ) releases a report which says the climate in the maple syrup industry is tense between the Federation and industry stakeholders.
A theft of maple syrup in Scott-Jonction, Quebec is discovered and makes the headlines. Police say $1.3 million worth of syrup was stolen. The theft is still under investigation.
July 10 2007
The RMAAQ rules Richard Vallières and his companies circumvented the system when he purchased 1.5 million lbs of maple syrup in contravention of the Federation’s rules. He is fined $1.8 million. The fine has never been paid.
April 27, 2011
Avik Caron pleads guilty to an unrelated fraud charge in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is granted an absolution and does not have to serve any time in jail.
June 27, 2011
The Federation rents a warehouse in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford to store the Global Strategic Reserve. The warehouse would eventually hold $30 million worth of maple syrup. It has minimal security.
According to police documents, the maple syrup theft is alleged to have started.
July 30, 2012
Michel Gauvreau, an accountant, visits the Federation’s stockpile in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford to perform an annual audit. He climbs on a stack of barrels and loses his balance after reaching for an empty barrel. He believes at least 30 barrels are empty and notifies the Federation.
Michel Gauvreau returns to the warehouse with a Federation representative. They realize many of the barrels have been refilled with water. Quebec police are contacted and an investigation is launched.
September 25, 2012
Etienne St-Pierre, a maple syrup buyer in Kedgwick, New Brunswick, is confronted by police. He is accused of buying stolen maple syrup. Police eventually seize $1.6 million worth of his syrup and equipment. St-Pierre maintains his innocence.
December 18, 2012
Quebec police arrest 3 people, including Avik Caron and Richard Vallières. Both men have pled not guilty to the charges.
More than 20 people wanted in connection with the robbery have been arrested. Only a fraction of the stolen maple syrup has been recovered.
October 18, 2013
The Federation opens a new warehouse in Laurierville, Quebec. It invests $4 million in upgrading the facility and adding a security system.
March 14 2014
One of the accused pleads guilty to his role in the theft. He is now serving a 12 month prison sentence for his involvement.
April 2 2014
A second person pleads guilty to his role in the theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October 2014.
Charges against more than 20 people remain for their involvement in the theft. Cases continue to be heard in Quebec courtrooms. All maintain their innocence.
16×9’s “The Sweetest Heist” airs this Saturday at 7pm.
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