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New bill would make it a felony to sell phony Vt. maple syrup as real

Quebec, Canada, was shaken by a massive theft of maple syrup - so valuable it is sometimes called "liquid gold" - from its reserve warehouse in 2012. The exact quantity missing was not disclosed, but is thought to valued in the millions of dollars. Read more: Arrests made in massive Canadian maple syrup heist AP Images

(CBS/AP/WCAX) MONTPELIER, Vt. - A couple from Vermont was duped when they purchased (gasp!) fake maple syrup online.

Henry Marckres, a maple specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture says it didn't take long for the native couple to sniff out an imposter. And later tests showed they were right: the "maple syrup" was just cane sugar.

Vermont is serious about defending the integrity of its maple syrup, and as they should be: the product, made from boiled maple tree sap, accounted for $30 million in sales last year, reports CBS Vermont affiliate WCAX.

The man who sold the couple the faux syrup, Bernard Coleman of Rhode Island, was indicted last month on charges of bringing adulterated maple syrup across state line. Marckres said he told the couple that he was a truck driver who passed through Vermont and would meet them nearby to give them the goods.

But something tasted funny  Marckres explained. It looked like syrup, but was too light in color to be labeled as Grade B syrup, which is dark. "It was sweet, but had no maple flavor at all," he said.

In response to this alleged fraud, and to protect the authenticity of Vermont's famous syrup, Vermont's two U.S. Senators have co-sponsored a bill that would make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup as the actual thing. The real stuff sells for about $50 a gallon. The bill also increases penalties in existing law from one year to five years in jail.

"Vermonters take pride in the natural products our state produces," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He said the growing number of individuals and businesses selling fake maple syrup alarms him.

"This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont's economy," he added.

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