Marc Fennell (@MarcFennell) is an award-winning journalist, interviewer, author, and documentary maker. He is also the writer and narrator of Audible Original Nut Jobs: Cracking California’s Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist.
What We Discuss with Marc Fennell:
- Who stole $10 million in nuts (specifically almonds and pistachios) from California’s Central Valley farmers — and why?
- Why are nuts (and prepackaged food in general) such ideal targets for theft, and how do current security protocols make it so temptingly easy for thieves with the means to haul them away?
- What makes nuts grown in California’s Central Valley valuable enough for organized criminals to take notice, and where do they go?
- Who wins and who loses when hot nuts change hands?
- What will it take to stop these heists from continuing?
- And much more…
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California’s Central Valley is the source of almost all of the world’s pistachios, walnuts, and almonds, and there are families who have been farming and supplying them for generations. It sounds like a pretty wholesome but humble livelihood, so why would organized crime take an interest in stealing $10 million dollars of these protein-packed little kernels of delight from their handlers? It’s a story that’s almost too nuts to believe.
On this episode, we’re joined by Marc Fennell, award-winning journalist, interviewer, author, documentary maker, and writer and narrator of Audible Original Nut Jobs: Cracking California’s Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist. Here, we discuss what makes nuts such a lucrative industry, why they’re the perfect cargo for evading detection in transit, where current security protocols fail in keeping these hot nuts from hitting the global market, and what efforts are being made to keep these heists from continuing. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our two-part conversation with Jack Garcia, the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family of Cosa Nostra in New York for nearly three years? Catch up by starting with episode 392: Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part One here!
Thanks, Marc Fennell!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Nut Jobs: Cracking California’s Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist with Marc Fennell | Audible Originals
- Marc Fennell | Website
- Marc Fennell | Instagram
- Marc Fennell | Twitter
- Marc Fennell | Facebook
- Marc Fennell | YouTube
- It Burns: The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli with Marc Fennell | Audible Originals
- The Central Valley Feeds the Country and the World | The Rampage Online
- Pipkin Detective Agency
- Sons of Anarchy | Prime Video
- Nearly Half a Million California Farmworkers Could Gain Legal Status Under New Bill | KQED
- Almond Milk is Taking a Toll on the Environment | UCSF Sustainability
- A.J. Jacobs | Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey | Jordan Harbinger
- Load Boards for Carriers, Brokers, and Shippers | Truckstop.com
- A $10 Million Nut Heist Is a Window into the Shady, Lucrative World of Large-Scale Food Theft | Quartz
- The History of Almonds I Global Almond Usage
- The Italian Job (2003) | Prime Video
- Kris Buckner | Who Does Counterfeiting Really Hurt? | Jordan Harbinger
- How the Mafia Got to Our Food | Financial Times
- Police Investigate Dioxin in Italian Mozzarella | Reuters
- A Mafia Legacy Taints the Earth in Southern Italy | The New York Times
- J&J Knew for Decades That Asbestos Lurked in Its Baby Powder | Reuters
- Bee Theft Is Almost a Perfect Crime — But There’s a New Sheriff in Town | Popular Science
570: Marc Fennell | Cracking California’s Nut Jobs
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Marc Fennell: The organized criminals would get into that system, get the contact details, get the paperwork. Then they'd call the truck driver or will send the truck driver a message, "Hey, Hey, Hey, just a change of plans. Actually, our shipping details have changed. We actually need you to take it here." Truck driver who invariably was being paid cash and sort of, and usually had to do multiple different loads at once, they're just like, "Yeah. Cool," rock up, get paid. Leave. And what's actually happened is that they've been hijacked, and they don't realize it. And then another truck comes along, and they attach the back and then they go off to take to a different port.
[00:00:37] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional Russian chess grandmaster, rocket scientist, or a former Jihadi. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:01:25] Today, a story that takes place in my backyard up here in Northern California, nut theft, specifically almonds and pistachios, not limited to, but you know, primarily focusing on those types of nuts. Yeah, people are stealing other people's nuts and lots of them, millions of dollars worth. In fact, those are some seriously valuable nuts. Lots of the farms are generationally owned. These farmers, they put their heart and soul into their crops as many farmers do. They also use the proceeds to feed their family. So when there's a heist and nut heist, they take it personally as one does, when somebody touches your nuts without permission. I couldn't really believe this when I heard about it, but my friend and guest today, Marc Fennell, did a deep dive into the business of nuts and nut theft, nut heist, and wanted to find out just where in the heck these nuts were going, who the hell wants hot nuts. Apparently a lot of people. You all love random stories, true crime and investigations and crappy dad joke puns. And this one just hits all the notes.
[00:02:19] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these authors, thinkers, and creators and find these wacky stories every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they already subscribed to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here we go with Marc Fennell.
[00:02:44] All right. So this is a pretty random theft target. Theft obviously is common. But something about stealing nuts is a little bananas. I kind of painted myself and I painted myself into a corner on that one, didn't I?
[00:02:56] Marc Fennell: I could see you. I can see going, "Where am I going with this analogy? Where am I going—?" And there you are.
[00:03:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yup.
[00:03:01] Marc Fennell: But it is. You're right though. It is. So it was strange. So I first heard about it. I did another series for Audible early in 2019, about the race to breed the world's hottest chili.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: Which I heard.
[00:03:11] Marc Fennell: Thank you. And while I was working on that, somebody said, "You know, there's just a million, a million weed stories with food." And that was when they said, "Hey, do you know, there's $10 million worth of nuts that get stolen." And I had very much the same reaction that you did, bro. So I looked at them blankly and went why. And so we started digging into it and it was really interesting because I think the, really the heart of that story for me is that when you start looking into thefts, particularly weird thefts and stealing $10 million worth of nuts is weird, like the actual definition of weird. It usually tells you something. It tells you something about how your food is grown and how insecure it is, or it isn't.
[00:03:49] And really that's sort of what it exposes. So there's a process involved in what you have in your fridge, your kitchen cupboards, and you look in there and go, "Do I know where any of this stuff comes from?" And the reality is most of us don't. And if you start scratching the surface of those stories, you realize that there's actually — you're encountering literally thousands of people when food arrives at your house and you don't realize it because that's how many people takes.
[00:04:12] And so what sort of started was that over a period of a couple of months, there was about $10 million worth of nuts stolen from Central Valley in California. And what becomes a bit obvious as I started digging into it is that it actually involves organized crime. In fact, it probably involves a few different kinds of organized crime. And I don't know how many people know much about the Central Valley in California, but it's one of America's primary food bowls where heaps and heaps of, oranges, cherries. Like so much stuff comes from there, dairy — and there was a huge issue. Like, you know, the farmers, they were like off guard and they did not know what to do. And so it's actually amazing. The Visalia Police set up a nut squad, which is still one of my all-time favorite things that has even been said to me.
[00:04:57] Jordan Harbinger: It sounds like a cartoon for three and five-year-olds — nut squad and it's dogs and squirrels. And that's what their job to catch these nut thieves, but really—
[00:05:05] Marc Fennell: It's got to be squirrels, right?
[00:05:06] Jordan Harbinger: It's got to be squirrels. I guess dogs don't really care.
[00:05:09] But yeah, there's a nut taskforce, which must have been kind of a bit of a laugh, asking for funding to set this up. It's like, we need a nut task force. And everyone's thinking it's April Fools. And it's like, "By the way, the crime is, it's like the highest, most expensive crime that's happened in this area in a decade," because what else is worth $10 million that you could steal in that area? Nothing.
[00:05:30] Marc Fennell: Exactly. Actually, that's what I thought too. It turns out because agriculture is so important to this area, the local community, the local representatives were really on board. And I'm one of the things I kind of expected to find was more farmers kind of hoping the police had done more. And actually, interestingly — because I started with farmers first and then went to the police. The farmers are really happy. Like they were actually really happy with their local police command who had actually been really on top of it because I think the police — I mean, firstly, when you've got an elected sheriff, so I think there's a sort of slightly political component to it there. But I also think they recognize pretty quickly, like this is the thing that keeps that community afloat and they were right on. And although what is interesting also is that there's pretty much a private security task force that were working on it as well. So one of the people, who I ended up meeting, was a guy by the name of Rocky Pipkin, which is honestly my favorite name.
[00:06:23] Jordan Harbinger: Rocky Pipkin, private investigator.
[00:06:25] Marc Fennell: Rocky Pipkin, private — I mean, it's just the best name, right?
[00:06:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:28] Marc Fennell: In addition to being one of the first people that people would call when stuff went missing, he also has security teams. And so I did a sort of a ride along with their security teams and it was quite eye opening because you first realized just how — there aren't giant bulletproof fences around these crops if you drive through the Central Valley. They're relatively open. You can walk in and people do walk in and people drive through. And the stories that came out during the ride along with them were wild because you can hide in these orchards.
[00:06:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they're huge.
[00:07:00] Marc Fennell: You can do all manner of illegal things. They were telling stories about finding bodies, finding people who hook up, people who would just back cars into and trucks into these orchards and just steal copper wiring because they've got these massive fences. They're almost like wind turbines and the reason they do that, so they can keep airflow going when it gets really hot. It's basically a way of controlling the temperature around the orchards. It's genius, pretty massive but people would drive up to them and open up the base of them. Just start pulling out copper wiring.
[00:07:31] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:07:32] Marc Fennell: And the stories, at least I was told, is that if you don't walk it down, things will disappear, water being siphoned out of reservoirs, really full of stuff like that. I think there's something really deceptive about it. You drive past beautiful orchards of cherry trees and orange trees, and you're like, "Ah, that's nice and bucolic and pretty." And then you just scratch a little bit under the surface like, "Oh, this is where all the crime is. This is what's happening here."
[00:07:58] Jordan Harbinger: It's true. When you drive through that area and you go, "Wow, there's all these almond trees out there." And then you see like the political ads for like, "Don't let it turn into a dust bowl or whatever." This is on the I-5 when you're going from LA to San Francisco. But it's kind of like, it is as rich as the people who own those orchards. It's also kind of a meth country, right? It's like biker gang. If you've seen Sons of Anarchy that show like a lot of their other gang buddies, they're like in NorCal. They're between LA and San Francisco, they're in these towns, you know, Lodi or whatever, and that are like on the route for the Central Valley. And yeah, there's white power gangs in there. I'm sure they’d find dead bodies in there.
[00:08:33] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:08:33] Jordan Harbinger: Because there's plenty of room to hide a dead body and a big-ass orchard. And yeah, people banging, like you said, but also just like some of the migrant workers live in there.
[00:08:41] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:08:41] Jordan Harbinger: And they live behind — you know, there's all kinds of just sort of, I won't say all of it is shady, shady, but like crime adjacent or like not quite above board stuff going on there too.
[00:08:51] Marc Fennell: You're right. I mean, any community has its strategy components, but I think the fact that it's so spread out and there's so many places to hide. Maybe it's not even about hiding, there are so many places where you just can't be found because it's so much space. That naturally means there's a lot of stuff that let's call it extra legal.
[00:09:07] It's interesting bringing up sort of undocumented workers, because there are whole towns, right? Where these communities that sit adjacent to that will actually almost sit nestled within a series of fields. Filled with people who only work on these various different orchards and they're really tight-knit communities. And they really look after each other, but at the same time, everybody in the town works for one company. And that creates all kinds of interesting dynamics where there are massive health outcomes. When you have these industrial sized thrashes working in fields that throw up all of this dust in the air and people are breathing that in, they're breathing it in at the elementary school. You know what I mean? And there's never done any air testing, but these people live in here and you can mount the argument that they can move away, but they can't.
[00:09:51] Jordan Harbinger: They can't, yeah.
[00:09:51] Marc Fennell: This is where their family are. This is where their money is. And so they can't move away. And so these people are kind of stuck here financially, economically stuck there. And they're breathing in stuff that you and I probably wouldn't want to breathe in. And I think one of the things I really wanted to get my head around is that, yeah, I guess that's one thing to look into this heist, but it's really important to workout — obviously, who did it and why it was happening, but when you look into the why, you sort of have to ask yourself, "Well, really how many people does your almond milk actually require in order to make it to you?" And it requires these people. It absolutely requires these people and the environmental pressures and the work pressures being put on them.
[00:10:31] So people in LA or Australia where I live can drink almond milk is huge. It's huge. And you know, a huge amount of the almonds that get consumed all around the world come from Central Valley in California. It's one of, if not the biggest producers of almonds. And so, you know, as benign as something like almonds are, there is an impact and that is an impact driven by us. You know, particularly as people stop drinking dairy milk and they want to drink various other kinds of milk. There's this perception out there that almonds are necessarily healthier, the bit of the environment. They don't have as much environmental impact as cow farming, which is true. That is true. But there are like these hidden costs that we don't pay attention to. I don't think it's a bad thing to look into that stuff and just be aware. Just be aware that the things that we eat changes people's lives.
[00:11:14] Jordan Harbinger: The sort of supply chain, food chain, whatever you want to call it, or food supply chain, I guess, is what it's called. It's not the food chain. That's something else. It is something fascinating. And we did a show a long time ago with a friend A.J. Jacobs who went on this sort of like pilgrimage to thank everyone that was involved in making his morning coffee.
[00:11:32] Marc Fennell: Oh, that's a good idea.
[00:11:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it was really interesting. I think it's called thanks a thousand.
[00:11:36] Marc Fennell: I like that.
[00:11:37] Jordan Harbinger: He flew to Colombia and Venezuela to be like, "Hey, thanks for germinating the beans that the coffee grower buys, those plants." And then it was like everybody along the way, and it was just so many people.
[00:11:48] Let's go back to talking about why the hell anyone would want to steal nuts in the first place, right? Because you mentioned millions of dollars, but that has to be just an actual sh*tload of nuts to be worth that much, but surprisingly almonds are like extremely, extremely expensive. There's no other way to put it.
[00:12:05] Marc Fennell: Yeah. I mean, you can hit a million dollars with two truckloads. Because the other thing about food is it, food is — and I didn't realize this until we started, but food is an astonishingly good thing to steal because until it's packaged, there's no serial numbers. There's no kind of markers. It's not like stealing a TV or an iPad. And the evidence is consumed. Like once it's gone, it's gone. You know what I mean? Like there's not a bunch of shells somewhere that you can find. So food theft is one of the biggest forms of theft in the United States and indeed globally, because it is so good to steal.
[00:12:37] The way it sort of actually happened is they would hack into trucking systems in order to get access to the truck. So you basically had a heist taking place without anybody realizing. And so what would happen is they use a lot of independent truck drivers. And independent truck drivers, they get contracted through something called a load board, which is basically, I think, as described to dislike being Tinder or Craigslist for truck drivers. So if somebody wants a truck load taken from Visalia down to LA, they'll post a load board. And normally what they'll do is they'll say it's overflow because they'll have existing contracts with trucking companies, but they'll be like, "Ooh, I have too much. I need to take it." So they'll post saying, "Hey, I need two loads taken from this place and I need to take him down to LA."
[00:13:21] And what would actually happen is that an official request would come through from the farmer and the truck driver who's an independent truck driver. They'd be like, "Yeah, I can do that. I got that." They'll pick it up. But what will happen is the organized criminals would get into that system, get the contact details, get the paperwork. Then they'd call the truck driver or send the truck driver a message and go, "Hey, Hey, Hey, just a change of plans. Actually our shipping details have changed. We actually need you to take it here," in some other location. Truck driver, who invariably was being paid cash and sort of, and usually had to do multiple different kinds of loads at once, they're just like, "Yeah, cool," rock up, get paid, leave. Like don't question them. And what's actually happened is that they've been hijacked and they don't realize it. And then another truck comes along with that attached to the back and then they go off to a different port. And we also found that there was no checks at the port of LA.
[00:14:09] The port of LA puts an enormous amount of security on things entering the United States, but things exiting the United States. You know I literally had the guy from the port of LA side of me, her job is to make sure that something, nothing dangerous comes into the US, which is fair.
[00:14:23] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:14:24] Marc Fennell: But you know, when it comes to leaving, somebody needs to like call up and go, "Hey, I'm concerned that this might not be what it says it is before they will check." Because to their credit, they want to keep everything moving fast. You know, you've got billions of dollars of products coming in and out of the port of LA every hour. And because of that, they're not doing security checks, but the thing with this particular crime is it happens so fast that there was no time for people to go, "Well, where's the load going?" The official request to come pick it up was legit. So, you know, the farmer was like, "Bye, truck. See you." It's only a couple of days later when it doesn't turn up in Vermont then they realize something's gone wrong. And so in that window, that's when it gets sent off to another location.
[00:15:09] But things were sort of going to one or two places like they were either going to packaging plants and being packaged up under the table or that were being shipped overseas. And so there was quite heavy suggesting that things are being shipped overseas to either Iran or China and usually through intermediate country. Because at the time I did it Trump's relationship with China — well everyone's relationship with China was a bit complicated.
[00:15:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:15:30] Marc Fennell: And it's saying black, that was still managing to get stuff out of the country, but they had to kind of send it via an intermediary company so that this isn't even criminals. But like you could even official sort of FDA approved levels of amounts of nuts were being packed in white boxes with no labels, nothing saying that it was coming from the US. They pack it in white boxes and then they'd ship it officially to Vietnam. And then once it's in Vietnam, it would then get sent on to the US even though there was a trade war going on with — you know, there was blockages between the US and China. So that's not even criminal. That's the slack, what the people in the industry were doing to survive to get around this like really difficult diplomatic relationship between the US and China.
[00:16:07] Jordan Harbinger: Right. It's not sanctions of Asian. It's just like, literally, hey, all right — embargo's not even the right word. What is it? Just a limitation on this.
[00:16:15] Marc Fennell: I think it's sanctions. I think there actually was sanction from it.
[00:16:17] Jordan Harbinger: Trade sanctions, I guess, yeah.
[00:16:18] Marc Fennell: A lot of stuff happened in the last three years.
[00:16:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:20] Marc Fennell: It's hard to keep up really.
[00:16:21] Jordan Harbinger: What disaster is this again? Exactly.
[00:16:23] So I just want to recap, real briefly, so none of these outbound shipping containers from the United States are really inspected. Usually in order to know what something is, there's a paper trail. And so it's probably like a form that's stapled or glued, whatever to the side of the shipping container on some sort of cork board, you know, equivalent. And it's like, these are fidget spinners, right? and that's all you got. You don't look in there and make sure that it is, and then that's further exacerbated by the fact that packaged nuts, for example, can be traced because there's a freaking barcode on the package. But when things are sold in bulk or wholesale, they're very hard to trace, right?
[00:16:56] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:16:57] Jordan Harbinger: And of course whoever's stealing nuts, for example, knows that. So I would imagine that the people who are stealing the nuts are also in the business, right? So it's like an inside job or, I mean, now that everyone's heard this podcast, now anyone can do it. But in the meantime, there's this very specific time to sort of like attack a load of nuts, right?
[00:17:15] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:17:15] Jordan Harbinger: And use the board system, yeah.
[00:17:17] Marc Fennell: It was overwhelmingly likely. In fact it would be almost impossible to do if you didn't have some people that knew when loads were going to be ready, when they were looking for an additional truck. And that became pretty clear. Like it became pretty clear that you got a whole bunch of people that work on farms. A lot of them are hired as incidental workers, so they don't have a lot of job security. So that's a cohort of people right there that aren't super likely to be incredibly loyal. If you're only hiring people for coming in and doing extra bits of work, and then you leave them with no healthcare benefits, you know, that's a group of people that are not likely to want to be super loyal to your organizations.
[00:17:55] So there was a general sense that the information leaks were coming from people who didn't feel like they were being treated at the best, or they had a really insecure income. I think that this is the thing with investigating any kind of crime. And I tend to specialize in weird crimes, like food, arts, and stuff like that. But one thing it's always worth doing is like, you know, when we talk about crimes, you can get so caught up in the, who did it, that we don't pay enough attention to the, why did it?
[00:18:23] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:18:24] Marc Fennell: I think it's really important to understand any crime. It doesn't like you found the criminal and it's over. I think it's important to look at why it's happening. And I think what it really exposes is that this crime is only achievable because of how many people are hired on a contract basis and have no security. Like the truck drivers who are quite happy to turn a blind eye to some weird requests. It's because they're working from commission to commission. The people who would leak information from farms. They're being paid casually, you know, or on shortcomings. These are not people that are overwhelmingly feeling like a lot of warmth to reasonably wealthy farmers. And that's not to suggest what it is, is right or fair. All these farmers did anything wrong. But I think it's important to look at the construct that sits around crimes like this if you want to understand how to actually stop them.
[00:19:13] And, you know, credit to the Visalia Police because they kind of got that pretty quickly. They had a pretty, to my mind anyway, pretty sophisticated understanding of not just the, how has also the why. And then I found a pretty sophisticated way of kind of tackling it as well by using identification that you couldn't see. You know, I think it's a general thing with any kind of crime reporting. It's like, you can't just stop at the how and the who. It's really important to understand the why if you want to stop it long-term.
[00:19:41] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with my guest Marc Fennell. We'll be right back.
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[00:22:29] Now back to Marc Fennell.
[00:22:32] I agree with that. And I think that it is wise to look at those origins or you'll never be able to fix the problem. That said, I hate excusing crimes like this, because there's plenty of people that are paid casually or worked for somebody else who's wealthy and they're not like, "Let me steal the final product," right?
[00:22:48] Marc Fennell: That is true. That is true.
[00:22:50] Jordan Harbinger: It's not like, "Ah, I'm going to shove a couple fistfuls of almonds in my pockets and round out my salary." I mean, this they're like starting a fake trucking company to win a bid in a system that's like electronic system and then tricking some independent truck driver to come pick up the almonds using like a burner phone and a whole story and a bunch of fake-ass documents. And also, I think you mentioned this in the story though, in the series, they can do this with like televisions and Nike shoes. It's not just nuts. So the systems they're setting up to steal these trucks are not just exclusive to say almond theft, but we'll stick to almond theft for now, but this is a pretty sophisticated crime. You're not like they left the door open to the back of the warehouse, go in and steal some Sour Patch Kids, or like, go grab a couple of boxes of whatever auto parts. I mean, this is like a major, major theft.
[00:23:39] Marc Fennell: You are totally correct. I also think that it's important to delineate between the masterminds and all the different people that take advantage of it along the way.
[00:23:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:23:49] Marc Fennell: I think all the different people that take advantage along the way are sort of semi-complicit either through ignorance or information supply, I think a lot of that component, so this is your truck drivers, people leaking from information. I see no evidence that they have masterminds. I think that's a group of people that were taken advantage of and the masterminds who are to your point, making hand over fist millions of dollars. They wouldn't be able to do these crimes if it weren't for these rich tapestry of people who are quite happy to help because they don't feel like they're engaged properly by the industry.
[00:24:25] I think it's important to delineate between the two. Like this group of people didn't make a lot of, like either were taken advantage of, or didn't make a lot of money or, you know, they're kind of opportunistic. Whereas this thing here was like fully sort of organized and that's the way the money is made. And I think these guys — sorry, if this game works more, it's better if you can see my hands. These guys —
[00:24:42] Jordan Harbinger: The mastermind?
[00:24:43] Marc Fennell: The mastermind, yeah. So the mastermind people can only succeed because there's a whole bunch of disaffected people working in the process. So I think it's important to can understand that there's a range of personalities apply here. In the series, I spoke to a guy who was a truck driver. He was actually involved, we think, in one of the crimes and he got caught. He did a little bit of time. He's currently paying off, I think, something in the vicinity of 90 grand.
[00:25:10] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:25:10] Marc Fennell: Even though he says, and court documents say that he only made like 600 bucks from it, which is a really interesting judgment. I mean, obviously what the guy did was wrong and he knows it and everybody knows it, but you know, he's an immigrant from a particularly poor part of Eastern Europe. And I think it's important to kind of go — I'm not here to make a judgment of him literally though, the courts have already made a judgment on him. He kind of stopped me in my stride a little bit. Well, obviously he did the wrong thing. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it, but your life is forever changed by this thing. He's actually become friends with the cop who arrested him. Again, it's just one of those weird things. Like people are more—
[00:25:51] Jordan Harbinger: As everyone does.
[00:25:52] Marc Fennell: People are more complex than maybe sometimes I, or any of us give them credit. And I'm just sort of sitting there listening to him talk just going, "Ooh, this is messy. This is really messy. Like it's not simple, like you did the wrong thing and you did your time. Like you were going to be paying back this thing for decades." He's not rich. And I think it's hard to hold that idea in your head of like, well, obviously the system did what the system does and you did a crime, but kind of reckoning with how much his life is forever going to be changed by. That is a really difficult thing to be faced. And that's partly why I like this job. When you actually have to talk to people that are actually involved in complicated things, you actually have to reckon with the fact that it's usually more nuanced and usually a lot messier than we think.
[00:26:39] Jordan Harbinger: This is a truck driver that had some part in the crime and he made 600 bucks, but he's got to pay for a huge chunk of the value of the heist as a result of getting caught. And everybody else who engaged, I assume, has just vanished.
[00:26:50] Marc Fennell: Yeah. Without a trace.
[00:26:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:52] Marc Fennell: So he's the guy holding the cannon. You see what I mean? We're like, there's a mastermind over here. They got away with it, but then there's all these people who are disaffected or just looking to make a quick buck. And they're usually the ones who are most vulnerable. They're the easiest to catch. They're the easiest to implicate. And it still involves some wrongdoing in most cases, not to let them off the hook, but at the same time, they're the ones literally left being forced to pay for it. And in that sense, I think it's an important thing to understand about organized crime in general, not just in the US, but everywhere, it's like usually the people that kind of first get caught and not the masterminds.
[00:27:28] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You end up with the low-hanging fruit. It's just like with drugs, right? You put away the kids who sell weed in their high school and you put away somebody else who's like driving some of the weed from Detroit to the suburbs, but you're not getting the people who are growing the marijuana. You're not getting the people who are selling huge quantities of the marijuana. You're not getting the people who are smuggling it across state lines or across international borders. You're getting like the number nine and number 10 on the 10 person food chain. And it's just like, you're just attacking the symptom of the problem. You're not doing anything to actually solve it. Maybe like one high school has trouble getting weed for a few months until they find a new guy, right?
[00:28:03] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:28:03] Jordan Harbinger: And that's the extent of the damage being done. And nuts, like going back to the whole idea here, nuts are super expensive, probably in part because of — what? They're super healthy in their advertising everywhere and now we're drinking almond milk in our oatmeal? You know, it's funny. I used to think almond milk was like this new fangled hipster sh*t, but apparently it's been around for literally hundreds of years.
[00:28:26] Marc Fennell: Oh yeah, yeah, it goes back to old English courts. They used to make — I spoke to this guy who's written like the official book of almond history, which is a thing—
[00:28:35] Jordan Harbinger: That's a super exciting guy.
[00:28:37] Marc Fennell: It's more exciting than I expected. This is what he does. He just does like food history stuff. And then you can go back and find recipes for almond milk in medieval days, courts in the UK. So it goes back a really long way, but the reason it has become such an attractive commodity is basically a sort of wellness culture, I guess, if you wanted to call it something. So the rise of people drinking almond milk in their coffees instead of dairy milk. That is a primary driver. And so because it's become this sort of healthy-ish thing that so many people will kind of partake in, it's massively driven on the production and the cost of it per nut, I guess. I think that's the whole — it's just too weird thing to say it that way.
[00:29:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they charge per nut, but yeah, I got you.
[00:29:22] Marc Fennell: Can you imagine if they charge per nut? It's just hilarious.
[00:29:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of nuts in this almond milk. Look, I love almond milk. In fact the tastiest almond milk is the stuff that's stolen in a heist. So I totally understand the demand here.
[00:29:34] Marc Fennell: Yeah. When you do stories like this, it changes the way you look at the fridge or it changes the way you look at the food in your kitchen, because you're like, "Where did you come from? And do I know where you came from? And do I know how many people I'm technically hurting by doing this." It really changes the way you see your food. I must say it's a very strange experience.
[00:29:55] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, food crime, first of all, who knew? And second of all, it's just weird to think that there's an almond orchard that you drive by and you think is empty, or maybe there's some people picking stuff, but really there's like bodyguards and drone surveillance now, all of this crazy high-tech stuff.
[00:30:11] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:30:11] Jordan Harbinger: And I mean, one particular heist had like fake driver's license, stolen license plates on the trucks in order to leave no trace. They had switched the tractor that was towing the trailer so that they wouldn't be able to trace the vehicle. If there was like tracking the vehicle. I mean, it really is heist. It's like The Italian Job where they're dropping the thing into the water with the Mini Coopers, except it's really just, they're stealing freaking nuts.
[00:30:34] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:30:35] Jordan Harbinger: And they're waiting until like everyone's at a company party and some of the stuff you detailed in there was they're waiting until everybody's watching fireworks. So it's like the whole thing is timed. It's not a crime of opportunity by any stretch.
[00:30:46] Marc Fennell: No, no, no, there's an investigator that I ended up speaking to in L.A. who we didn't end up including in the series in the end. And he was showing me pictures — he specializes in transit theft, and he's showing me these pictures of the back of trucks where you can see that they've rewelded on the lock. They've taken off the lock and then they've rewelded on a completely different lock so that the people that bought it can identify it when they say it in a shipping container and things like that. Like all this sort of really elaborate stuff, I guess, because the thing is, we're talking about a series of heists as opposed to one big heist.
[00:31:19] It means there are all these different variations in how it's executed. I think the way I sort of came to think of it as it was sort of a very quiet battle being waged where the people who were organizing — and I think there were a few different groups that were engaging with this at the time. They were constantly innovating to not get caught. NYPD got involved as well because obviously the port of LA became quite involved and it had to go through a few different jurisdictions in order to get to the port of LA. They got quite good at communicating with each other and they got quite good at coordinating from what I gather, but it meant that for a period of a couple of years, there was a lot of like tick tacking as to how they can innovate and to stay one step ahead, one step ahead of the police. The police were trying to deal with it.
[00:32:03] And in, you know, one of the things that police ended up doing, which was kind of brilliant was they used this stuff from a UK company called SmartWater. It's a spray, which has a unique identifier on it. And then if you have the right sort of reader, you can identify where the nuts are taking from, the date, time, and who the provider was, but it's invisible. You'd never be able to see it and it doesn't have any type of taste or flavor.
[00:32:24] Jordan Harbinger: And it's on the nuts? They're spraying the nuts, what? Like, it's almost like a serial number. Obviously, it's not really a serial number, but they're spraying the nuts with this identifier chemical that we've eaten tons of, obviously. So hopefully it's safe.
[00:32:35] Marc Fennell: Clearly.
[00:32:36] Jordan Harbinger: But they spray that on there. And so you have — I'm trying to think if there's an equivalent of this anywhere, it's like a VIN number on each nut.
[00:32:43] Marc Fennell: Pretty much, yeah. So it's kind of kept it, I think my understanding I'd have to double check this, but I think it's about the chemical makeup of it. And it's specific to this particular—
[00:32:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:32:52] Marc Fennell: But it's become quite popular in the last couple of years. And I think it's biggest advantage is that people know about it now. So you never know if you're picking up — and they can do it on nuts. they can do it on oranges, they can do it on cherries. And the problem is you never know if this particular load has been sprayed. I think that deterrent was actually enough for them to kind of push down a lot of the take-up. And I think it's actually had a huge impact, probably more as a deterrent than as anything that's actually technically been used to capture people. That being said, I mean, there was literally a guy arrested a couple of weeks ago for doing exactly what we described in the series two, three years ago, which is amazing now, but it's still happening. Less so I think at the moment, but if there's money to be made, somebody's going to give it a go.
[00:33:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's a lot of money — well, first of all, it's got to be hard to catch because jurisdiction, like you mentioned before, the nuts are always on the move, then they're shipped overseas. So you got like is at the county, is at the state, is at the FBI? And then stealing things like nuts or other commodities, these retain their value almost a hundred percent, right? If I steal a bunch of televisions or iPads, I've got to fence them and sell them at a huge discount, sitting on them is dangerous. Maybe I'm selling it for half or even less of what the item value is, but if I steal almonds or nuts, I could probably sell them for just under a hundred percent of the normal market value of the item. Or maybe even the market value of the item. If I can feign legitimate provenance, right?
[00:34:14] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:34:14] Jordan Harbinger: Like the chain of custody, "Hey, this comes from this farm. I've got all these documents," and if I can make it look not shady, they'll just pay me what they're worth, especially if they're in the right place at the right time.
[00:34:23] Marc Fennell: I think the fact of the matter is that the food industry is used to operating at an incredible speed because food, you know, as soon as it comes off the vine, it starts degrading, right?
[00:34:33] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:34:33] Marc Fennell: And built into the food industry is speed, fast decisions, meeting demand just in time. And I think the sort of side effect of that is that decisions get made quite quickly. You know, somebody comes up and says, "Hey, we have a lot of nuts. We had excess amount. I can sell it to you for X amount, take it off my hands," boom. And that happens every day. Like that happens every day, all across the food industry, everywhere in the world, that's not unique. And so because of the speed at which decisions are made about acquisitions and filling supply chains, it means sometimes that you can pull faster.
[00:35:06] Literally, you are pulling a fast one, right? So you can inject a stolen load into that supply chain with relative ease. And once in the supply chain, it's off to be packaged, it's off somewhere. It's gone. It's just picked without a trace. And suddenly it's in a packet, it's being sold. Do you know what I mean? So it happens really quickly because the whole industry moves quickly.
[00:35:26] I mean, that sort of more broadly, it has been driven by, you know, increasingly with things being delivered. There's this sort of just-in-time mentality with food supply. So because everything's sped up so fast, it's actually really easy to inject stolen goods into that supply chain and food is faster than anything. It's faster than electronics, it's faster than cars. It's the fastest moving delivery industry because it has to be because like I said, let me take it off the vine, it starts to go bad. So you've got to move fast.
[00:35:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, this does make sense. It's like the opposite of art where they can steal it and sit on it for like five years. And then, "All right. It's not hot anymore. Now we've put it in an auction house." This is like—
[00:36:00] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:36:01] Jordan Harbinger: —you get those nuts. And by morning, they're at the dock or they're on a boat already with a reserve spot.
[00:36:07] Marc Fennell: It's a good comparison. Like I do a lot of the sort of art crime stuff as well. I'm working on an art crime documentary at the moment. And there are sorts of rules you see at art crime, to your point, the literal opposite. Like there was a piece stolen that I investigated something near that I'm working on where when the guy sold it, when he fenced it, he made the buyer who's buying it sign a document saying you cannot show this thing to people for five years. After five years, then you can show it to people. That was part of the deal. So it's interesting when you get into the details of crimes, they sort of reveal themselves. They reveal their ammo when you sort of get into the bits involved. It's fascinating stuff.
[00:36:44] Jordan Harbinger: The mafia does a lot of this, right? Their ammo is organized crime. I mean, it is organized crime. It's like, that's the definition, right? So you would think, "Ah, food, come on. That's not sexy. That's not lucrative enough." But now that we see what the prices are — and then of course, after watching a bunch of mafia movies, you see how much these guys are involved in food and importing and exporting. Actually, this is like the perfect industry for mafia groups. The Italian mafia I've read is like farm to fork when it comes to food, right? Forced labor on farms, transportation industry, import-export industry, grocery stores, sales, restaurants. I don't know if you looked into olive oil at all, but, and most people don't even know what real olive oil would taste like, because so much of it, at least here in the United States, is diluted. It's full of corn oil. It's fake, totally counterfeit. Basically any rare or expensive food will have a markup and wherever there's a markup, there's going to be something that is counterfeit. And the more sort of iconic the food, the harder it might be to obtain. I think you wrote about this, right? There's Romanian truffles and Chinese tomatoes and canola oil. And it's all marketed as Italian food and it can all be exported as such. And that's a little scary when you think about the fact that we're eating this.
[00:37:57] Marc Fennell: Completely. I spoke to a journalist who has been covering this in Italy for many years. In fact, Italy has what they call the agro mafia. They have a unit that is literally just dealing with food crime. And the mafia, it's worth noting that the mafia itself, like if you go back to its origin, it was always built around farming. They were involved in controlling and dominating farm life back to medieval days. So the relationship with the food mafia in Italy goes back centuries, centuries, and centuries. And there's a whole litany of stories throughout history of the mafia in Italy controlling food supply standover tactics on farmers. And it's a massive, massive issue in Italy.
[00:38:40] And one of the things, as you say that we did sort of find out, is that they record a huge percentage like millions and millions and millions of gallons of olive oil, or what is sold as olive oil in the US is not olive oil, or it's been watered down or sort of disillusioned with other forms of all like canola oil. And more importantly, it's probably not from Italy. It's probably from somewhere else. Usually it's in Europe. For Italy, it's a huge issue, right? Because you think about the things that Italy is famous for. Italy is famous for its food. You know, it's a huge part of the identity of being Italian. And also it's selling something as, you know, Italian tomatoes or it adds to the authenticity of what people buy.
[00:39:23] Jordan Harbinger: Nobody wants a Shanghai tomato, right?
[00:39:26] Marc Fennell: No, I mean, to be honest, they probably grow perfectly good tomatoes.
[00:39:29] Jordan Harbinger: They're
[00:39:29] Marc Fennell: probably fine.
[00:39:29] Yeah, but it's about that you can charge a premium because there's a perception that Italians are really good at growing tomatoes. And this sort of applies to food crime and other kinds of crime too, it's like perception of value is where your money is made. So even though they'd probably grow perfectly fine tomatoes in Shanghai, the perception of value is where your money is. So if you can produce a product, but people imagine it being worth this amount, that's where you make your cash from. But if that's based on a lie, you're operating in an ability to make a much higher premium. So it's astonishing how much food that comes out of Italy isn't actually food that comes out of Italy.
[00:40:07] When the journalist was telling me this, I was like, my jaw hit the floor. I think what she said about olive oil was fascinating. Because it's literally like, do you know what olive oil tastes like? Do you really know what it tastes like?
[00:40:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Now I'm like, do I?
[00:40:18] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:40:18] Jordan Harbinger: Have I ever had anything? That's actually been the good stuff because yeah, you buy the extra virgin olive oil and I'm like, okay, fine. But if it's not from whole foods or some uppity place or even then, how do they know? They're not inspecting everything. If it's counterfeit and it's organized crime and the labeling is fake and the documents are fake, like, I don't know. Maybe I have had mozzarella that's been bleached. Maybe I have had—
[00:40:40] Marc Fennell: I feel like you can tell. I felt like mozzarella being bleached, I feel like you'd be able to taste that.
[00:40:46] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Marc Fennell. We'll be right back.
[00:40:51] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. We all experienced the ups and downs of life or a professional setback, been there, rejection, been there, financial issues, been there, relationships — you get the idea, personal loss, all that stuff. Most of the time, we're able to bounce back eventually, but sometimes we might need a little extra help to do so. Better Help is professional therapy done securely online and the services available to clients worldwide. Better Help will assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist. You can start communicating in under 48 hours. Better Help loves matching you with the right person. You can always switch if you need to. Check out their stellar testimonials online, such as this one, "I will definitely recommend Dwayne in a heartbeat. I've taken therapy before, but honestly, I'm receiving help on a level that is actually working. I feel peaceful and heard after every session." And sometimes that's all we need, folks.
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[00:43:52] And now for the rest of my conversation with Marc Fennell.
[00:43:57] That's the thing, though. It is the thing, okay, look, maybe you could taste that, but my favorite, and I think this is from your piece as well, is that some mozzarella is smoked with burning garbage. That's something that you definitely think you could taste, right? Like, hmm, this has a hint of yep, yep, it's burning garbage bags, burnt plastic. That's the flavor profile. I'm coming up with.
[00:44:17] Marc Fennell: There are horrific stories out of, particularly out of Italy, of ways in which food has been bastardized by crime. And I think it's really interesting that Italy has a government that has actually just set up a unit like a police unit specifically to deal with it. Because I think that tells you something. It tells you how important it is to their identity as a nation, but it also tells you how widespread the problem is. Right? You don't set up a unit like that if it's not a huge problem, do you? Like you just don't.
[00:44:42] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:44:43] Marc Fennell: Right. So that was very illuminating and it did make me think. It reminded me of the way in which the Visalia cops set up a nut squat. It's like on the face of it, you go, ha-ha, funny, funny, funny, and which is a totally fair reaction that I think everybody has. But then you really think about it. It's like, isn't that the most important thing, right? Like, wouldn't you? Of all the things you want security over the thing you eat, the thing you feed your kids, that's the thing you want to have the most confidence in, right? On one level, it's like, yeah, it's funny that they have cops for food, but on another, it was like, actually, yeah, I want to have total confidence on the thing that I'm shoving in the face of my kids. Is it illegal? Has it been smoked with—?
[00:45:23] Jordan Harbinger: Does it have asbestos? Has it been smoked with burning garbage?
[00:45:24] Marc Fennell: So I think in that sense, it's kind of important.
[00:45:27] Jordan Harbinger: It is. I mean, look, when you think of the agro mafia crime unit in Italy, you think they're just arresting people for eating pizza, with a knife and a fork instead of, you know, holding it in your hand. Like that sort of will be in New York, right?
[00:45:38] Marc Fennell: They might do that too.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: They may do that too. This is what they do on their daily patrols, but the rest of it you're right. Yeah, I don't want to feed my kids something and then find out it has asbestos in itt. And it's like a lot of the products — I mean we've had scares like that in the United States. I don't know if you have this in Australia, but Johnson's baby powder, which is like the number one baby powder in the United States since the beginning of time and still is, they found out for years, it had asbestos in it. And because asbestos and talc, I almost said grow in the same place, they start from the same place. Like a talc mine has asbestos in it pretty much a hundred percent of the time, just in nature.
[00:46:12] Marc Fennell: Wow.
[00:46:12] Jordan Harbinger: So when you grind the talc out of the ground or however they get it, there's asbestos in there. And Johnson & Johnson found out about this and then covered it up for like literally 40 years. And people are putting this on their babies and putting it on there who has, and there's all these people that got sick and you can't really directly say it's from that, but it's like, well, okay, you had a rare cancer on your, you know what, and all you do down there is use baby powder. And we know it has asbestos in it. That's a carcinogen. So yeah, we do want this stuff policed and we do want this stuff controlled probably, and possibly more than any other type of crime. Like financial crime, we say, oh my God, that's horrible. Well, imagine you're not eating it. It hurts you, but it doesn't physically harm you. This is much more important than it is at first glance.
[00:46:56] Before I let you go, tell me about the bees. Because my wife is a beekeeper and she told me about this before and I could barely wrap my head around this, but now that we're on weird crimes and heists, you know, we might as well throw in the bees.
[00:47:07] Marc Fennell: So one of the things I couldn't fit into the Nut Job series was the fact that there are all these beehives that were being stolen as well. And I ended up doing an episode of America's Test Kitchen. They've got a podcast called Proof. I did an episode for them. And what happens is basically you have all these beekeepers, particularly ones up in Oregon and places like that. The bulk of their money does not come from honey. Like we think that's what beekeepers that make their money from the bulk of their money comes from renting out their bees to go, drive down and set up the bees next to orchards because the bees are the things that help all the orchards pollinate. So they are actually really necessary. And because we're now growing food at such a massive scale. That once upon a time, you just let nature do it, right?
[00:47:49] But because they're growing at a massive scale, they actually bring these bees down and they sort of force them to pollinate all these food trees, which is by the way, devastating for the bees, like a third of the bees die in this process. But to my point earlier, if you don't lock it down, it gets taken. Literally what was happening is beekeepers would come down that rent out there sort of hives for 30, 40, $50,000 for a period of time, like a really intensive period of time to do the pollination and people would just come up and that was shoved them in the back of the truck and they'd steal them.
[00:48:17] And so that's been another component of food crime in this area. The cops are now having to check if you're a farmer from a couple of miles down the road, if you just come take these bees overnight, set them up, either in a white high box, if they don't have a logo, like who can say who those bays actually belong to.
[00:48:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:48:34] Marc Fennell: And it's one thing for the farmer, because the farmers usually — the farmers are always renting the bees, right? But if you're the beekeeper, you've come down, you dropped off the bees and maybe you will stay a couple of nights in Bakersville or whatever. Or what often happens is they leave the base for a couple of weeks. They drive back up and then they come back down to pick them up. Imagine you've come, you've left your bees this way. And then you go back up to Oregon and get on with the rest of your life. You drive down three weeks later. Where have the bees gone? So this is the other thing, so it's sort of taking advantage of the fact that it's designed to be a sort of set and forget process, but in that window, That's what people steal.
[00:49:07] And again, it's like we've become reliant on bees. Our whole food industry is absolutely reliant on industrial sized hives that can come and pollinate food at a massive scale. And there's a huge impact on the bees. It's literally a bee massacre when it happens. But we are as a species, we're reliant on them doing that and yet they'll just get stolen because that's how valuable they are.
[00:49:32] Jordan Harbinger: Many of the bees in California have been wiped out by diseases and other issues. We don't have enough natural population but even if we did have a healthy, normal, natural bee population, these orchards, people, are huge. They're so enormous and they require pollination. So even if we had a natural bee population, it probably still wouldn't be enough to pollinate all of these trees. And then yes, we've got to get the bees from Montana or whatever, or Oregon like you said, and then leave them in there for a few days at a time in this giant orchard with a little puny, little fence around it and seven gates that aren't really necessarily monitored or they're locked with a little padlock or whatever.
[00:50:09] Marc Fennell: Or barely, not even gates, sometimes it's like a bar.
[00:50:11] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:11] Marc Fennell: That's a funny thing about these fences. There's no fences around the side of these orchards, but then when in the road, it's a bar in the middle of the road, you just lift it up and you drive in. The security is not, it is not Fort Knox. You know what I mean?
[00:50:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And of course, because when they were built, it was, well, no one's going to steal an almond tree.
[00:50:29] Marc Fennell: Right.
[00:50:30] Jordan Harbinger: No one's going to steal a beehive that is out next to a bunch of almond trees because these bees, they're not just sitting on a flatbed truck and they're like, okay, go do your thing. Like they're moving hundreds of these things all over the orchard so that they're pollinating the trees. To steal bees, I thought about this, right? You've got to have a bunch of people wearing bee suits that know how to handle a hive that are going to then, I don't know, load it onto maybe a golf cart and then very carefully drive that thing so as not too upset sleeping bees. Doing it at night, by the way in the dark, because the bees have to be home. And also the workers have to also not be in the orchard working. Then you've got to load those things onto a flatbed truck or into a truck again without disturbing the bees too much. And then you have to steal them and drive them over state lines and all of this sort of with some modicum of stealth.
[00:51:13] Marc Fennell: Oh the whole thing happens under the cover of darkness.
[00:51:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:15] Marc Fennell: It is amazing. There is a part of you that just has to kind of sit back and go—
[00:51:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Wow.
[00:51:20] Marc Fennell: —in all the organization that goes into it, to be honest, like obviously bad, don't do it at home, but there's a little part of me that's impressed that they managed to pull it off.
[00:51:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[00:51:31] Marc Fennell: Again, like heavily underlined, like it's bad, please don't do it. But at the same time—
[00:51:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:36] Marc Fennell: You have to sort of — and I think that's also part of what covering these sorts of crimes is interesting is the mechanics. The mechanics of how it's done are actually really fascinating. And then this stuff still persists. I think what has happened though, is that beekeepers have become a bit more, they've gone a bit more on the front foot about how they deal with it. So there are now GPS tags on hives. They've started putting really clear signage and, you know, before they would put signage just on the lid on top of it which is pretty easy. Because you just replaced the lids. It's like, "Oh, it's us, it's mine." So they've gotten better back kind of putting more signage on. So it's become a little bit harder to do, but it still happens. And it happens because there's money to be made. And as long as there's money to be made, crime will happen.
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: Marc, thank you very much, man. Looking forward to the next installment. What's the next weird thing you're going to study and write about? That seems like your jam.
[00:52:22] Marc Fennell: Well, I do a series at the moment that I'm working on called Stuff the British Stole, which is all about objects that sit in British museums that were stolen over the years of the British Empire.
[00:52:30] Jordan Harbinger: Infinite amount of material, I think, probably.
[00:52:33] Marc Fennell: Yeah. So I'm working on that at the moment. Turns out they stole a lot of stuff. But what's interesting is like, when you look into the stories of what they stole, it kind of tells you a little bit about the world we have today. Put it this way, if you speak English, you would talk about the British Empire, right? So it kind of lets you tell the story of us, like how we ended up with where you are in the US, where I am in Australia, we're only here because of the British Empire one way or the other. And so by looking at the objects that get stolen, you can kind of tell the history of the world, which is sort of what it is. Tell the history of the world through stolen objects. And, yeah, that's what I'm working on at the moment.
[00:53:02] Jordan Harbinger: Marc, thank you very much, man. I always love your stuff. I'll link the Nut Jobs and also It Burns, which is about the search for the world's hottest chili pepper. By the way, when I listened to that, you must have looked at those people and thought they were a little bit insane, right? Like these people are basically pouring acid, like natural acid in their mouth and being like, "Oh, I have a hotter one. Try this instead." I mean, it's like just the hottest peppers on earth.
[00:53:23] Marc Fennell: Initially, I thought, yes. I thought exactly that. And then I realized, are they any crazier than people that run marathons or people that put themselves through enormous amounts of pain to win at the Olympics? And I slowly realized that physical pain is something not everyone avoids. Put it this way, it's like physical pains can be something that people chase. And that was really what that story became in the end. A lot of the guys involved in that process, they were dealing themselves physical pain to often deal with emotional pain. And I thought that was really fascinating.
[00:53:54] Jordan Harbinger: To clarify for people that don't know what the hell I'm talking about. This is another audio piece that you did, where these people are searching for who can grow the hottest pepper, the hottest chili on the planet.
[00:54:06] Marc Fennell: Yeah.
[00:54:06] Jordan Harbinger: And these things are like incredibly hot for 99.9 percent of the population. You'd never use it on food. And these guys are just, you know, like, "Hey, eat this." "Oh, wait, there's this other one that's even more hot." And these are things that you could probably use to, I don't know, scare a bear away while you're camping if you had it in a spray bottle.
[00:54:24] Marc Fennell: Literally, there was a plan to put some of these, the essence of these chilies in grenades to deal with crowd control. That's how full on they are. But at the same time, it turns out there was this three-way battle that we've all been waging without realizing it between the US, the UK, and Australia for who can breed the world's hottest chili. It was a weird competition and it is still a race to this day as to who can breed the world's hottest chili. And, you know, within that, there are accusations of cheating, tampered test results, and a lot of internal politicking, but then when you scratch the surface, what you realize is that no one's doing this to make millions. They're doing it for a reason and overwhelmingly they're doing it because of something else going on in their lives. And that was, I think, where it got particularly interesting. It was about a bunch of dudes who were inflicting physical pain on themselves to deal with often emotional pain or social pain. I was like, that's fascinating. That's a fascinating dynamic. And you can hear me like nearly dry-reach while I do it because they all made me eat their damn chilis.
[00:55:21] Jordan Harbinger: I'd have to draw the line there. I mean, what do you even do? You're eating the world's hottest chili pepper. Do you even like spicy food?
[00:55:26] Marc Fennell: Well, I do. I actually do. I was raised on, so I'm half-Indian. My mom's from Singapore originally. And so we were always raised with spicy food. I thought I liked spicy food until I met these people. I realized that I got nothing. They were serious, serious spice lovers. What's interesting is that most people like spice because it adds something to food. It's part of like a cocktail of sensations when you eat, right? It's salty. It's spicy. It's all this stuff. No, no, no. This is about endurance testing for these guys. It's not about flavor. It's about, "Can I take the heat?" It's a very like hyper sort of masculine. Can I take it? Can I defeat it? It's the same sort of fervor you get when you talk to like CrossFit athletes or people that do MMA. It's like, how tough am I? I remember being fascinated by that component? Because that pushes food into a different space. It stops being cuisine or sustenance. It starts becoming an endurance sport. And when food becomes an endurance sport, that's like a whole different ball game.
[00:56:22] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, food's an endurance sport for me, but just not in that way, it's more of how much could I pack in here kind of way, but that's because I already know the answer to how tough am I and the answer is not very tough at all.
[00:56:33] Marc Fennell, thank you so much, man. Always a pleasure.
[00:56:36] Marc Fennell: It's a joy. Thank you so much.
[00:56:39] Jordan Harbinger: As usual I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a preview with a former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in New York for nearly three years, resulting in the arrest and conviction of 35 mobsters and get this, he's not even Italian. Here's a bite.
[00:56:59] Jack Garcia: Jordan, I've done everything. I mean, I have posed as a money launderer, I've worked as a drug dealer. I have worked as a transporter for drug dealers. I worked as a warehouse guy, the whole gamut. My career of 24 out of 26 years was solely dedicated to working undercover. If I wasn't working for the FBI, I would have been investigated by the FBI.
[00:57:21] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:57:22] Jack Garcia: I walk in, I'm in the bar and there's a barmaid there, good-looking young lady. She's serving me. "What would you like?" Usually, my drink was, "Give me a Ketel One Martini with three olives, a glass of water on the side." I'd finished the drink, the guys came in, I'm going to go. Go in my pocket, take out the big wad of money, that knot with the rubber band on it. Bam, I gave her a hundred dollars. You're not a guy who takes out a little leather wallet and he's going to change or he's doing that.
[00:57:51] Can you imagine four gangsters sitting around going, "Let's split it up. I had the soup. You had the sandwich and French fries." "Well, what about the tip?" Sometimes we get into a bidding war. A guy goes, "Hey, your money's no good here." "What are you doing? You're embarrassing me over here." "What do you mean you paid a lot?" "Let me get this. Forget about it." "You pay for it."
[00:58:09] If I would've gone in there and became a guy who had never a penny, never went into his wallet, and never picked up the tab, never had a dime, never kicked up money, never given tribute payments, I'd be on my ass. They threw me out. If you're with the mob, I say, "Hey Jordan, you're on record with us." That means we protect you. Nobody could shake it down. We can shake you down but you're on record with us.
[00:58:33] Jordan Harbinger: For more including tricks wise guys use to know who's legit and who's not, mob culture, and the rules that govern the always upward flow of money, and how Jack became so trusted by the highest levels of the organization that they offered him the chance to become a made man, check out episode 392 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Jack Garcia.
[00:58:55] I found it interesting that many of these nuts ended up going overseas. I guess that makes sense, right? It's probably hard to sell stolen nuts. Although they are a commodity, like you said, I mean, how are you going to know where I got my nuts, where I got my almonds, right? Where I got my pistachios? They're not labeled, right? It doesn't make any sense for you to even try to trace that. And there's hardly a country where California does not send almonds, Europe, Japan, Dubai, et cetera. So if you're in one of those countries or hell, even in the United States, and you've got a mouth full of nuts, make sure you know where those nuts have been because they could be stolen. So the moral of the story is hold on to your nuts folks. All right, I'm done. I'm done. I know it's too much.
[00:59:33] Thank you to Marc Fennell. His project/audio book is called Nut Jobs. It will be linked in the show notes. If you have audible, it should be free here in the United States. Links to his stuff will, of course, be on our website in the show notes, as it always is, jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from the guests. That always helps support the show. Even the free ones, you never know, I could get a little credit there. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. And there's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. We also have our clips channel, cuts that don't make it to the show or highlights from the interviews you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you'll find that. And I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or you can hit me on LinkedIn.
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