Get updates on specials.

Visit Us On...

Home > Plant Theft Update > Plant Theft Update--2015

Plant Theft Update--2015


As you may know, our nursery experienced a series of rare cycad thefts. Most of these were very rare species we had imported over the years.

The thief (sometimes using the aliases Jason Green or Max DeAngelo) is believed to be Rocco Tyler DeFranco, AKA Rocco Ty DeFranco, AKA Matthew Tyler Hardy.

DeFranco sold these stolen plants generally:
1. At night
2. From the back of a rented truck
3. For cash
4. At approximately 20%-25% of their value
5. Without any legally provenance information or personal ID
6. To people who had never heard of him as a legitimate cycad grower.

DeFranco, and a number of plant sellers to whom he sold these plants at steep discounts, sold these plants to collectors over the last few years. If you bought a rare cycad at a price lower than prices generally offered for these very rare species, there is a real possibility you were sold a plant stolen from our nursery.

These are the plant species that you should document if you bought them in the last 2 years:
• Encephalartos cupidus
• Encephalartos nubimontanus
• Encephalartos horridus
• Encephalartos horridus Dwarf Form
• Encephalartos arenarius
• Encephalartos arenarius Blue Form
• Encephalartos arenarius Blue Leaf
• Encephalartos arenarius x horridus
• Encephalartos trispinosus
• Encephalartos munchii
• Encephalartos caffer
• Encephalartos longifolius
• Encephalartos longifolius “Blue Form”
• Encephalartos friderici guilielmi
• Other rare Encephalartos sp.

If you have purchased one of the above species from a Southern California supplier within the past 3-4 years, please contact us so we can verify the source of your plant(s). We want to work with you, and we don’t want you to be at risk, if you have purchased a stolen plant.

The legal process to address these thefts is now underway. LAPD undertook an investigation, arrested Rocco Tyler DeFranco, and our nursery is taking legal action against DeFranco and others who profited from dealing in stolen property. California law (Penal Code Section 496) allows anyone injured by the sale of stolen property (like our nursery) to bring a civil action against the seller, or a person who receives stolen property, for up to three times the amount of actual damages, costs of suit, and reasonable attorney's fees.

Sellers of endangered species like cycads are required to maintain documentation of provenance, and on imported plants, all CITES permit data. A reputable supplier should be able to provide you this information when you purchase a plant. If the supplier is unable or unwilling to provide this, there is a reasonable chance the plant was not acquired legally.

We are offering a one-time “amnesty period” for anyone who believes they have, or who knows of the existence of a plant that may have been stolen from our nursery. We will be happy to work something out with you that will be fair, so that you have clear title to your plant without paying more than fair value in total for it, and so that the sale of stolen property is not a total loss to you or to us. We can also provide you with documentation that passes clear legal title to you for the plant. We want this to work for you.

Back in July 2011, we asked members of the rare plant community what we want our roles to be, and whether a low discount price offered for a rare plant of questionable origin is worth it. If we support thieves, through action or inaction, whose fence will they jump over next? Whose garden will they visit uninvited to take what we've nurtured? While our nursery is now veritable “sound and light” surveillance show for nighttime visitors, will every cycad collector need to do this in the future?

Whether you're a hobbyist, a collector, a home gardener or a nursery owner, you’re a member of a special community that appreciates rare plants and nurtures them. Please help ensure that plant theft does not become one of the pillars on which our community is based, and help ensure its future survival by working with us to resolve this situation and put it behind all of us.

Please Click Here for Information on the Thief, Rocco Tyler DeFranco, and the Theft

Please contact us privately at if you have any information, questions or feedback.


Maurice Levin
11225 Canoga Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311
(818) 655-0230 - Fax: (818) 301-0309

Share this page:

Plant Theft Update--2015