Ventura County

Men Who Illegally Sold Over $300K Worth of Avocados Arrested: Sheriff

Sheriff's officials suspect they had been selling the avocados illegally for months.

Several men who allegedly sold over $300,000 worth of avocados illegally at the produce facility where they work were arrested this week, sheriff's officials said Friday.

Sheriff's detectives started investigating allegations that employees at Mission Produce's Dufau Road facility were selling the avocados for cash without authorization late last month.

After finding evidence "that confirmed the allegations," detectives served multiple warrants in Ventura County Wednesday and arrested three men who are all employees at the facility, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. The facility where they work is located in an unincorporated area of Ventura County.

Joseph Valenzuela, 38, Carlos Chavez, 28, and Rahim Leblanc, 30, were arrested. Sheriff's officials suspect they had been selling the avocados illegally for months.

"It looks like they were skimmed off the top and sold separately," said Sgt. John Franchi of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

Their employer, Mission Produce, estimates they stole over $300,000 worth of avocados. Each of the men was booked for grand theft, but charges against them could change as the investigation is ongoing, Franchi said.

"The investigation is ongoing as Sheriff’s Detectives are looking into the possibility that the suspects sold the avocados to unknowing customers, who thought they were paying Mission Produce for the fruit," read a statement from sheriff's officials.

Anyone who purchased avocados from the facility in the last few months was asked to call Sheriff's Det. David Boynton at 805-388-5100.

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