Pedro Villafan Magallon, 46, of Newman, was held to answer on a felony charge of grand theft stemming from his theft of nine bee colonies on Jan. 3.
Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing established that Orin Johnson of Hughson, a second generation beekeeper, was awakened in the early hours of Jan. 3 by the security guards for the Diablo Grande Golf Course in Patterson. The guards had seen a suspicious vehicle in the rural area where Johnson kept several colonies of his bees. Dre Castano of Rank Investigations caught Magallon in the act of stealing Johnson's bee colonies. Magallon had already loaded nine of the colonies into the truck he had driven onto the property. He had cut the barbed wire fence, bent it back and was loading up the bees. Magallon admitted to Stanislaus County Sheriff Deputy Phillip Harris that he cut the fence and was stealing the bees.
The defense argued that Magallon had no record and was cooperative and deserved a reduction to misdemeanor charges. Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees argued how critical bees are to the agricultural industry here in Stanislaus County particularly the almond growers. According to Johnson's testimony, February and March are peak season for the bees and in January queens are growing and the hive is very active and valuable. He estimated their value at $250 to $300 per colony.
"Beekeepers are already under siege with Colony Collapse disorder and bee theft is at an all-time high. This is a very serious crime and should be treated as such. Especially here in Stanislaus County where agriculture is a significant growth product," argued Rees.
Attending the hearing were members of the California State Beekeepers Association who are very concerned about the treatment of bee theft cases in the Central Valley. Judge Linda McFadden agreed with the argument and held Magallon to answer for the felony charge. He will be arraigned on April 13 in Department 2.