Thursday, July 26, 2001

Police charge 2
with theft in
pineapple heist

Cops nab 2 people with fruit
allegedly from Kunia fields

By Nelson Daranciang

Police have charged two people caught with a carload of pineapples with theft.

Police arrested Angeline Kepa and Gordon Rivera Sunday night after an officer noticed the back seat of their Toyota Celica "filled to the roof" with pineapples and both both suspects covered with dirt.

The officer stopped the car after it made an illegal left turn at the intersection of Kaukonahua Road and Wilikina Drive in Wahiawa and because it had an expired safety inspection sticker.

In the car, police found 154 pineapples they believe were stolen from fields in Kunia. The fruit was worth just less than $200.

Kepa, 35, of Kalihi and Rivera, 29, of Waialua made an initial appearance in court yesterday and are being held in lieu of $20,000 bail each.

Thefts of pineapples from the fields are common, said Glenn Kawamura, director of finance at Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. He said the company has no estimate on how much it loses each year to theft, and preventing it is difficult because there are so many acres to cover.

"We have security guards, and they'll chase people and they'll run away. Workers will also pursue them, but we don't want our workers chasing people," Kawamura said.

Kawamura said a man was arrested earlier this year picking pineapple in Kunia and loading them into his pickup truck.

The state Legislature two years ago passed a law designed to discourage agricultural thefts.

The law requires certificates listing the name of the seller, origin and destination for any agricultural commodity sold or transported in lots of more than 200 pounds or worth more than $100.

The law is expected to reduce agricultural thefts across the state.

Still, Kawamura doubts its effectiveness.

"It puts the enforcement on the retailer. A police officer would have to do the investigation," he said.

"Kepa and Rivera said they get 50 cents a pineapple, and they said they've done it before," said Jack Snyder, Honolulu Police detective. But they did not say where they sold the fruit, he said.

"Odds are it'll be mom-and-pop stores, stores in Chinatown and at swap meets," said Kawamura.

He said a neighbor showed him a pineapple he bought for a dollar in Chinatown. Kawamura said that is less than wholesale.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin