With Tuesday's arrests of three of the thieves behind the $18 million maple syrup heist uncovered in Quebec in August, investigators are revealing details of how the job was done, reports the New York Times. But in order to understand the crime, you need to know the victim: the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The Times describes it as a "cartel" that controls the bulk of the world's maple syrup supply; "it's like OPEC," says its acting head. To keep prices high, it stockpiles syrup produced in excess of the strict quota it sets for its members; in a bad year, it'll dip into the reserve (which now stands at 46 million pounds) to keep the supply consistent.
The problem arose in 2011, after a bumper year forced the federation to rent out an additional warehouse, where it stored 16,000 drums of 54 gallons each. The thieves rented out space in the same warehouse, allowing them to access the facility without raising suspicions. Then they slowly began emptying the syrup barrels, in some cases refilling the drums with water. Their final take: 6 million pounds. And unlike the predicament faced by many criminals, the Times explains they were able to unload it at full price, by presenting themselves as legitimate syrup dealers in neighboring New Brunswick and selling it throughout the region and to the US. But seizing the syrup is sticky: "Maple syrup doesn’t have a bar code," explains a cop involved in the investigation. "There’s no way to tell it apart." (Read more maple syrup stories.)