Crown calls for stiff penalties and jail terms in Quebec maple syrup theft

Some 18 people were arrested following the investigation, with some of those cases still making their way through the court system

Three men convicted of stealing $18 million worth of maple syrup should face stiff penalties for their part in the scheme, the Crown said Friday during sentencing arguments.

Prosecutor Julien Beauchamp-Laliberte told a court in Trois-Rivieres, Que., the men should pay back the value of the syrup as well as pay additional fines and should also serve jail terms ranging from three to eight years.

A fourth man, Jean Lord, was acquitted.

Jurors found Richard Vallieres, Raymond Vallieres and Etienne St-Pierre guilty last November in connection with the theft of 2,700 tons of syrup from a warehouse in Quebec between August 2011 and July 2012.

They faced various charges including fraud, theft, and possession and trafficking of stolen goods.

Beauchamp-Laliberte said Richard Vallieres should get eight years in jail and a $9.4-million fine on top of paying back his share of the value of the syrup.

If he cannot pay the fine he should instead serve a total of 18 years in jail, the prosecutor argued.

Beauchamp-Laliberte said Richard Vallieres' lawyer suggested a jail term of three to five years for his client, who was convicted of theft, fraud and receiving stolen goods.

The defence recommended jail terms between three and four years as well as lesser fines for the other two men.

All three men have signalled their intention to appeal the guilty verdicts.

Sentencing arguments are scheduled to continue Feb. 13.

The case made international headlines after the sweet stuff was reported missing following a routine inventory check at a warehouse in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Que.

An investigation was launched after the barrels of syrup were found to have been drained and replaced with water.

Officers from the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement helped Quebec police in the investigation.

Roughly 300 people in the maple syrup industry in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and the northern U.S. were questioned.

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