After a Central Valley food plant uncovered thieves had been pilfering their cheese for years, a months-long probe ended in the arrest of two men accused of running an operation to sell the product across the state, sometimes even going door-to-door, officials said Wednesday.
An investigation was opened Aug. 22, after about $50,000 worth of cheese was stolen from the Leprino Foods Co. plant in Lemoore, according to a news release from Lemoore police.
Lemoore sits between Fresno and Bakersfield.
Leprino Foods is the world’s largest producer of mozzarella, with annual sales of more than $3 billion, according to Forbes.
Company officials estimated that their cheese had been targeted by thieves since 2017, but they didn’t know who could be behind it.
Police detectives determined the stolen product was being sold throughout Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Riverside counties via social media, door-to-door salesmen, on the street and various flea markets.
After identifying multiple people involved in the sales operation, authorities served search warrants in Tulare and Kings counties.
Evidence recovered — which included a large amount of stolen cheese — led police to identify 24-year-old Jairo Mariano Osorio Alvarez of Lemoore as a suspect.
After further investigation, detectives determined the cheese was coming from an inside source: Roderick Domingo Ransom, 34, of Lemoore, who works at the plant.
Alvarez was booked on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property, while Ransom was being held on suspicion of grand theft and embezzlement, officials said.
Authorities say they’re continuing to investigate the long-running theft ring.