Two workers steal thousands of pounds of almonds and walnuts in California

Two men suspected of masterminding a $2 million (Ђ1.5 million) almond theft ring in California's Central Valley were arraigned on felony charges of receiving stolen property.

Sukhwinder Singh Grewal, 41, and Amrik Singh, 27, could face up to a year in prison if convicted.

A Punjabi interpreter was brought in Monday to translate the judge's instructions for Singh, whose lawyer, Jakrun Sodhi, declined to comment afterward. Grewal said he had yet to hire one. The men did not enter pleas and were to return to court Jan. 3.

Police found workers at a warehouse Nov. 26 loading boxes from various nut processors into a rental truck. Officers recovered more than 123,000 pounds (55,350 kilograms) of almonds and 13,000 pounds (5,850 kilograms) of walnuts.

Authorities accuse Grewal, the owner of Sona Spice Imports, an importer and wholesaler of goods from India, of selling the nuts in unmarked boxes to small stores throughout California and parts of Canada. Investigators have said there was no indication buyers knew the nuts were stolen.

Authorities have not specified what they allege Singh did, reports AP.

Growers in the Central Valley produce about 80 percent of the world's almonds, more than two-thirds of which are then exported overseas, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In 2004, the almond industry took in $1.4 billion (Ђ1.05 billion) almost double the profits of the state's wine exports, according to department figures.

As prices for almonds have risen with demand, a growing black market has emboldened thieves to cut holes in fences, sneak into distribution centers and drive off with truckloads of nuts.

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