Thieves taking used cooking oil from restaurants in Albert Lea

Aug. 13 – An area business owner reported to Albert Lea police on Thursday a crime he says is common across the country, involving the theft of approximately 1,000 pounds of used vegetable oil.

Dweezle Bordeaux, owner of American Oil for about 15 years, buys used oil from restaurants in the community. It pays restaurants $1 a gallon, then cleans up the oil and resells it to the biodiesel industry.

He says he consumes about 1.2 million pounds of oil in a year.

Bordeaux said he usually waits for one of the restaurants he works with to call and say the oil is ready to be picked up, but no one called.

His wife, Shannon, had also driven by Bleachers Sports Bar & Grill, which is one of the restaurants he works with, and noticed their outside storage container was empty.

So he decided to go and check the oil himself at all of his restaurants and found that the storage containers there – at the Thirsty Fox Pub & Grill, The Elbow Room, Wok-N-Roll and Al’s Burgers & Chicken – were also empty. .

He suspects the thief also went to other restaurants in town that he doesn’t work with and did the same thing there.

“Usually when they rob one, they rob the whole city, and that’s what happened, they robbed the whole city,” Bordeaux said.

He said the estimated 1,000 gallons stolen from his restaurants alone equaled about $5,000 in stolen value. He guessed that by adding the other restaurants in town, the thief could have gotten away with at least $10,000 worth of product.

Bordeaux said vegetable oil theft is not something new and is in fact a problem he has faced for many years.

Thieves typically use a box truck – like a U-Haul truck – and put six or eight 250-gallon containers in it, then drive from town to town and fill the truck up.

The thieves then work with someone else already in the business to sell and convert to biodiesel.

The crime has been reported in many other states across the country, resulting in charges for many people, including organized theft rings and people who face federal charges for millions of dollars stolen from oil.

Bordeaux said Albert Lea’s police took his robbery report and told officers to be careful if they saw tanker trucks going out at night next to these restaurants. He said thieves can do multiple towns per night.

He said he has tried to be proactive in locking his containers and also strives to empty containers before they are half full.

In the meantime, he is frustrated because his livelihood has been taken away from him.

“If I can’t get it back, I can’t get paid, and obviously the restaurant can’t get paid,” he said.

About Byron G. Fazio

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