"Operation Wine & Cheese" Arrested 10 Thieves With Refined Palates, But They're Not The First To Target Your Favorite Food
Sometimes, the truth is better than anything the most creative crime writer could come up with. On Monday, Italian police arrested 10 people in "Operation Wine and Cheese," which is exactly what it sounds like — a sting aimed at apprehending a crime ring known for stealing the ingredients for a fancy dinner party. I'm not saying this has to be turned into a satirical caper movie about the wedding of two thieves from rival crime families, but I certainly hope Hollywood is paying attention.
Described as one of the biggest wine and cheese busts in history, the group was apprehended in Modena, Italy, a city known for its cheese production. Police believe that since 2015, the gang has stolen around 16,000 bottles of wine and 168 wheels of Parmesan cheese from factories, homes, and shops across the region of Emilia-Romagna. Apparently, the area tends to draw organized crime because it's the home of Parmesan, one of the most expensive types of cheese out there — a single wheel can cost more than $500. Combined with the price fine wines will fetch, it makes a little more sense that a crime ring would target the foods you eat when you want to feel sophisticated.
The gang has stolen more than $250,000 worth of items overall — according to Time, about $140,000 in wine and $110,000 in cheese. Police believe that one of the thieves had professional ties to agricultural businesses and passed on information to other members of the fiendish crime ring. Although 10 people were arrested, one member is still thought to be at large.
The thieves in question aren't the only ones with refined palates out there; cheese theft is a legitimate concern across the entirely of Italy. In 2015, a different gang was arrested for stealing around $875,000 worth of the cheese, and according to ABC News Australia, an agricultural organization told local news outlets that more than $14 million in Parmesan has been stolen over the last three years. As CBS News points out, the cheese has to age for at least a year to be certified Parmiggiano Reggiano, so there are tons of cheese wheels ripening in warehouses across Italy, waiting to be smuggled away by criminal masterminds.
Parmesan might be a superstar of the cheese world, but cheese theft is way more common than you'd think. According to the Center for Retail Research, cheese was actually the most commonly stolen food in the world — it even outstrips alcohol.
The conclusion? Cheese is basically as valuable as gold. But considering cheese is the greatest food known to the universe, you knew that already.