(April 3) LOS ANGELES — Where in the world is Jorge Negrete?

That’s the question Southern California and Pacific Northwest produce suppliers want answered in the real-life search for a Los Angeles produce company owner who skipped town — allegedlyleaving up to $2 million in Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act debts.

“This case is getting stranger by the day,” said Jason Read, a partner with Rynn & Janowsky, a Los Angeles law firm representing half a dozen creditors.

The case also is getting more difficult for the 25 grower-shippers suing for repayment.

Negrete’s accounts receivable documents have disappeared along with the suspect.

“Unless we can locate the accounts receivables, we have no way of speculating what might be recovered,” Read said.

Negrete’s accounts receivables and company computer were stolen shortly before Read arrived to seize company documents at Negrete’s abandoned produce business across the street from the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, Read said. A U.S. District Court judge authorized Read to collect receivables.

Pacific Fruits & Vegetables Inc., Los Angeles, closed its doors Dec. 6, the day after Negrete met with a group of 25 produce and nonproduce creditors.

Negrete, who disappeared in late February, has a long list of assumed names, according to court records. Negrete is also known as Jorge Webster Negrete, George W. Webster, Jorge Webster and Webster J. Negrete.

Read is reviewing produce claims that have been submitted. He said he will submit a report to the judge and develop a procedure for repaying PACA claimants by April 15.

Negrete, Read said, told creditors at the December meeting that he couldn’t pay them because one of his large customers, a Mexicali, Mexico, broker, didn’t pay him. Negrete stated he intended to submit a repayment plan. That plan was never filed, Read said.

The court allowed attorneys representing Negrete to withdraw from the case in early February, court records show. Those lawyers and other parties reportedly connected with Negrete failed to return telephone calls.