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Heather Bellow
Three men from New York City stole used cooking oil from the Bridge Restaurant in Sheffield, Mass., on Sunday, but were apprehended near the Great Barrington Fairgrounds by Sheffield and Great Barrington police.

Sheffield grease heist fries New York thieves

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By Tuesday, Aug 18, 2015 News 6

Sheffield — If you store used grease from your restaurant in a container out back, Ace Grease Service, an oil rendering company in Illinois, has some advice for you.

“If you encounter a grease thief, do NOT approach them. Instead, write down their license plate number and immediately call the authorities. Be sure to call us as soon as you can, too!”

What is a rampant national problem of cooking oil theft found its way to the Berkshires last week when the owners of Bridge Restaurant in Sheffield awoke at 8:15 Sunday morning (August 9) to find a white box truck with New York plates parked behind their restaurant, where they also live.

There were three men, the truck, and a hose inserted into the used frying oil container.

The bin at the Bridge Restaurant where used cooking oil is stored. Photo: Heather Bellow

The bin at the Bridge Restaurant where used cooking oil is stored. Photo: Heather Bellow

“My wife woke me up and I knew immediately and called 911,” said Michael Dutton, who with his wife Cindy, has owned the restaurant for almost nine years.

“They told my wife they weren’t doing anything wrong,” Dutton said. “They said they were just cleaning out the tank.”

Sheffield Police put out the alert, and Great Barrington Police caught up with three New York men near the Great Barrington Fairgrounds. Federico Ferreira-Germosen, 30, and Jonathan Garces, 21, both of Yonkers, along with William Garciarosario, 24, of New York City, were charged with Receiving Stolen Property and Possession of Burglarious Tools.

“The police said they had all the paraphernalia,” Dutton said. A large oil container, along with a hose used to suction up the oil “like a wet vac,” were later found in the truck. Police say they also confiscated a pipe wrench and a power drill.

Garces was held without bail because he is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant from Yonkers. Feriera and Garciarosario were held on $200 bail. The three will be arraigned in Southern Berkshire District Court this Thursday (August 20).

Dutton, who has an agreement with Western Mass Rendering in Springfield, said that he noticed a white truck similar to this one on the property about eight months ago.

“I just didn’t get up quick enough or get a license plate,” he said. “The truck had some dubious company name written on it.”

Dutton estimates that the thieves stole about 700 to 850 gallons of used fryer oil. Great Barrington Police reportedly found about 1,300 total gallons in the truck.

“They had map of places they were hitting,” he added. “This has to be worth their while.”

Dutton and the police officers involved may have felt like they had stumbled into a Coen Brothers movie. Not so. The popularity of biodiesel for use in diesel-run cars has surged, and even lard now has its own extensive black market.

Where there are black markets there is the law. Where there are grease crime syndicates there are grease-litigation lawyers.

For environmental reasons, used oil can’t just be thrown away, says Rendermagazine.com. And this “common waste” can be converted into “a versatile and valuable industrial material…in the manufacturing of soap, detergents, and other chemicals.”

The container for the cooking oil was kept in a corner of the Bridge Restaurant parking lot.

The container for the cooking oil was kept in a corner of the Bridge Restaurant parking lot. Photo: Heather Bellow

And, “It is most widely used as an additive for livestock feed where it provides important nutrients and improved palatability as well as reducing dust from handling the feed.”

“I’ve been in this business for 40 years,” Dutton said. “When I started, you had to pay someone to take it away. Now I’m getting about $120 to $130-ish for 1,000 gallons.”

American Energy Independence Company (Amenico) of Pittsfield, N.H., makes non-petroleum-based products, and refines the oil from all Applebee’s restaurants in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as restaurants all over southern Maine and part of Vermont. Amenico Sales Representative David Hughes says that right now, it’s a tough way to make a living.

“With oil prices down many restaurants have stopped paying all together,” Hughes said. “We can’t make much money now. Oil prices are hurting us tremendously. If you get it for nothing you can sell for a little. It’s not very profitable even for the guys stealing it.

“The maximum we’re paying now is 40 cents a gallon. It’s pretty precarious right now for the rendering commodities.”

Yet Hughes says that he, too, has grease thieves in his midst. “We know who it is but we haven’t been able to catch him.”

Some restaurant owners take on thieves themselves, Hughes said. “One saw guys pumping out his containers. He drilled holes in the bottoms of their drums.”

Restaurants everywhere have become targets. Protecting the oil with motion detectors isn’t worth the cost for most businesses.

Overall, Dutton thinks oil heists are “very low risk” for slippery culprits.

“I’m probably one of the only times they got caught. We happen to live there. But I don’t check daily.”

Representatives from Western Mass Rendering did not return calls. Police were unavailable for comment.


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6 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Ellen Lahr says:

    This is the story I was hoping I would read in The Eagle! Thanks Heather for greasing the narrative!!!!

  2. Ellen Lahr says:

    At last! The story I hoped I would get from the Eagle! Thanks Heather for greasing the narrative!

  3. Ritch says:

    Tragic and hilarious… brilliant and stupid all at once (the act, not the story)… wow! Thank you for bringing this bizarre behavior to light! Is it a movie? A sub-plot? An SNL skit? Or just a sad commentary on our society? Regardless, again, thanks for researching it and bringing this story to our attention. Grease Crime Syndicates? Rendering Commodities? Delicious stuff.

  4. Susan P. Bachelder says:

    Certainly humorous but also a quite serious and interesting story of entrepreneurs robbing entrepreneurs. The recycling of oils and their use in green products is a little told story. I looked up Dutton’s company Amenico in New Hampshire and found out about the efforts they have put into renewables and Congress’s inability to support their own initiatives since its founding. Bright guys in a little known business. Thanks Heather and the EDGE for another well researched and well written story both entertaining and enlightening.

  5. Frank B. Holcomb says:

    Wherever there is any “profit to be made”, there will be found someone attempting to break the law with making that profit. However, in this case it does make one wonder if the thieves were uninformed or fools. The driving a box truck from NYC to the Berkshires had to cut into any profit they were hoping to make. However, there is the chance these three were aware completely of what they were doing and had a decent outlet for their stolen goods. My opinion on this story being the opening statement could be the most important part of the entire story;

    ( “If you encounter a grease thief, do NOT approach them. Instead, write down their license plate number and immediately call the authorities. Be sure to call us as soon as you can, too!” )

    We have no idea what could have happened if the property owner had physically confronted these three but one can only assume they were not going to give up the stolen property easily. Also, with a advantage of three to one, the owner absolutely did the right thing by passing along a detailed description of the individuals and vehicle involved along with the license plate if possible. Fortunately the thieves were apprehended and no physical battle ensued. Of course one can also assume that the courts will hand out a stern look along with a “fatherly talk” and let the three walk away with little more than several days and nights being in a “bed and breakfast” establishment not of their choosing.

    1. Patrick Fennell says:

      Maybe they are government employees and used to not making a profit? Although it seems like more work than it is worth even for a government employee.

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