Kings County Sheriff’s authorities have arrested one man after he stole bee hives from Texas and pretended to run a legitimate bee business in Kings County, officials said.
Approximately 238 stolen hives were recovered, which deputies said were valued at approximately $128,500.
Sheriff’s officials said the suspect, 43-year-old Antonio Diaz Catarino, contracted with local growers to provide the stolen bees for their orchards at a lower rate than the average price, which was approximately $40 less per hive.
On Jan. 31, the Sheriff's Office Rural Crimes Task Force said they began an investigation into a theft of hundreds of bee hives from Texas, which were found in Kings County.
The investigation started with a tip from a concerned citizen who contacted the task force and informed them that they had possibly found stolen bee hives around several orchards in Kings County.
The citizen then put the task force in touch with the owner of the hives, who deputies said was from the state of Texas. The owner, who happened to be in California at the time, met up with task force officers and was driven to various locations and confirmed the hives were his.
Sheriff’s officials said the hives were reported stolen from both Manvel and Hitchcock, Texas, where law enforcement authorities were also conducting theft investigations.
Working with the land owner who had the hives on their property, the task force said they learned Catarino was acting under the guise that he was running a legitimate bee business.
That afternoon, Catarino was taken into custody without incident when he returned to one of his "customer's" equipment yards to pick up some equipment he had left behind, officials said.
Deputies said Catarino was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property and grand theft.