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Mystery driver hauls away $184,000 of almonds, prompting Portland natural foods company lawsuit

Oct 08, 2015 at 08:36 AM CST
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Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/10/mystery_man_drives_off_with_18.html

One morning this past spring, a mystery truck driver brazenly pulled up his trailer to a Southern Californian almond distributor -- then drove away with 42,000 pounds of almonds.

The almonds never made it to their intended destination -- Bridgetown Natural Foods in Southeast Portland, where the company makes granola bars, cookies and other snacks. And that has prompted Bridgetown to file a $184,000 lawsuit for the value of the almonds against SunnyGem -- the Californian company that it says released the almonds to the unknown driver -- and Left Coast Logistics, the Lake Oswego company that Bridgetown contracted with to haul the nuts to Portland.

The unidentified driver appears to have carried out the theft by tapping into some inside information.

Cargo theft is a multibillion-dollar problem across the nation, and particularly in a big food-producing state such as California. According to the FBI, highly sophisticated thieves -- who often act with some privileged knowledge -- have stolen up to $30 billion dollars worth of cargo each year, includinghighly valued nuts, fruits and vegetables, meat, soda pop, cookies, electronics and cigarettes.

But many companies don't report the thefts to avoid embarrassment or damage to their reputations.

According to Bridgetown Natural Foods' lawsuit, on the morning of April 13, 2015, a Left Coast Logistics driver was supposed to pick up the almonds from SunnyGem in Wasco, California.

A Left Coast Logistics employee emailed SunnyGem a list of identifying information about the truck and driver who had permission to pick up the load: the driver's name, the license plate numbers of the truck and trailer, and the identification numbers on the truck and trailer, according to the suit. The email also stated that the truck belonged to "AVG Transportation."

The lawsuit states that while the truck that arrived to pick up the almonds was labeled "Maynard Transportation, Inc." -- not "AVG Transportation" -- and an identification number on the trailer read "533147" instead of the correct "7111," all other information matched the information sent in the email to SunnyGem.

That includes the license plates of the truck and trailer and the driver's name.

Although Left Coast Logistics reported the theft to police, the bandit was never found, the suit states.

According to the lawsuit, although the almonds never made it to Bridgetown Natural Foods' factory at 11601 S.E. Foster Road, SunnyGem has demanded that the Portland company pay up. Meanwhile, Left Coast Logistics claims that SunnyGem is responsible for the missing almonds, because it gave away the nuts to the mystery driver.

And that led Bridgetown Natural Foods to file its lawsuit last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Company representatives from SunnyGem and Left Coast Logistics didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Portland attorney Scott Whipple.

Read the lawsuit here.

-- Aimee Green

[email protected]

503-294-5119

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