Lindsay man pleads no contest to honey embezzlement
LINDSAY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Tulare County honey plant worker was arrested this week on charges he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of honey from his employer.
55-year-old Guadalupe Gonzalez pleaded no contest to a grand theft charge.
Norman Cary has owned and operated Cary's Honey Farm in Lindsay for nearly 40 years and says he treats his employees as if they're members of his own family.
"This employee I was paying pretty well," said Cary. "He had a nice package."
Which is why he was stunned to learn a manager of nearly 15 years may have been involved in stealing from his company.
"It hurts a lot because he was my friend and I trusted him with everything," said Cary. "He was in charge of inventory and that was part of the problem."
A problem that lead Cary to call in a private investigator with the Pipkin Detective Agency. After a two month investigation detectives told him they had enough evidence to make a citizen's arrest.
"Why honey?," asked Action News. "Is honey a profitable commodity right now?"
Cary replied, "It is, there's a world shortage right now and prices are higher than they've ever been. Our wholesale price is as much as $1.85 a pound and he was selling it for quite a bit less than that."
investigators believe Gonzales stole barrels of honey from the farm and then sold it in fruit stands and markets all over the state, from as far south as Los Angeles to north of Fresno.
"There were several clandestine packing operations we identified," said Rocky Pipkin. "They were purchasing it in 55 gallon drums and then putting it in one to two pound jars."
Jars Pipkin says included fake bar codes, phone numbers and web addresses. The Tulare County Sheriff's Department has now taken over the investigation and more arrests could be made.
In the meantime, Cary is making some changes to the farm to prevent him from being stung by an employee's sticky fingers again.
lindsay, tulare county, crimetracker, local
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