Apple orchard owner tells Arab customer: 'Every Muslim that comes in here steals from me'

The owner of an apple orchard is accused of making offensive and racist comments to an Arab-American customer.

Now that customer is looking to file a civil lawsuit against Erie Orchards and Cider Mill - but the owner claims he felt threatened.

"Every Muslim that comes in here steals from me," the voice says on Joe Mahmoud's recording.

"Every Muslim that comes here steals from you?" Mahmoud asks, repeating the question.

"That’s right," the other voice says.

Needless to say, this was not how Joe Mahmoud expected to end his day at Erie Orchards - recording his encounter with the owner as he tried to leave.

"That is racist, you are racist," Mahmoud says to the owner, Steve Elzinga, as the camera raises toward his face.

"Of course I am," the owner responds.

This was Sunday. Mahmoud says he, his wife, and three daughters decided to visit Erie Orchard and pick peaches.

"We bought some ready pick peaches, so we spent like $70 prior to going outside," he said.

He says an employee told him the orchard had already been picked over and there were no more peaches.

"And I told him the girls just want to go back there," he said. "(I asked) If we do get a bag what do you want us to do? Pay at the front?' He said, 'Don’t worry about it, what you find will be rotten.'"

Mahmoud claims they did find a few rotten peaches and picked them anyway for the experience. As they started to leave, Elzinga, the owner, approached his truck.

"He goes to the back door and opens the door where my daughter is and goes through her bag," Mahmoud said. "I’m like, 'What are you doing?'"

That was when Mahmoud started recording.

"That’s why you are acting like this," Mahmoud said.

"And that's why you are going to pay," Elzinga responds on video.

Joe Mahmoud

Joe Mahmoud

Elzinga spoke with FOX 2.

"I blew it. Obviously, a lot of my customers are Muslims, and they are not all thieves," he said. "But there is a contingent that come here and feels for some reason, they can pick free. He was one of them."

Elzinga claims it was the third time someone attempted to steal from him that day.

"I was at my wit's end and I said things that I want to apologize for," he said. "I don’t mean all Muslims are bad. Many of them are my friends and long-term customers."

"He said, 'You are going to pay the $58 dollars and I’m going to make sure of that,'" Mahmoud said.

Elzinga admits he stood behind the truck to prevent Mahmoud from leaving.

The owner of Erie Orchards said he did call the police to report he felt threatened, saying the customer, he believed, had a gun in the car, so he let him go.

"He told me he had a gun in the car," Elzinga said. "I said $57 isn't worth my life."

Mahmoud and his attorney say what happened to him was unlawful imprisonment and ethnic intimidation - and they plan to file a civil lawsuit.

"He wouldn’t let us leave, daughters are scared now," he said. "Yeah, I want him to feel the full effect because I shouldn’t have to be looking over my shoulders."

"This man came out and said, 'I am racist, you Muslims steal from me and you are going to pay," said attorney Abdallah Moughni.

"I’m sorry for what I said," Elzinga said. "I do not believe all Muslims are thieves.

"We’ve always been open to everybody and will continue to do so."