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California cop is arrested for grease theft

By Kris Bevill | October 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 15, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. CST

A recent grease theft arrest in northern California has resulted in a police sergeant being put on paid administrative leave as he awaits a court hearing for allegedly stealing $350 worth of used cooking oil from a local restaurant.

Sacramento Rendering Co. held the contract for pick-up of grease from that location and reported the theft. Sacramento Rendering President Michael Koewler said in March he began noticing thefts had occurred at his company's pick-up sites. He contacted local police in June and they began an investigation that ended Sept. 30 with the arrest of Folsom, Calif., Police Sergeant John Landahl on misdemeanor theft charges. He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 17 to face charges of the theft and illegal transportation of used cooking oil.

Reports of grease thefts have been on the rise across the country in the past year. Prices for waste oil have gone up as a result of increased demand for the product as a feedstock for biodiesel production. Koewler said although the biodiesel industry has caused increased demand for the product, rogue biodiesel producers are not to blame for grease thefts. Rather, according to Koewler, the periodic rise in price of grease is to blame for the increased number of thefts. "Even before biodiesel was the craze, we had a number of thefts," he said.

Folsom, Calif., is located approximately 20 miles northeast of Sacramento.

Koewler said the amount of grease thefts in California has been "absolutely crazy" due to the higher prices being paid for grease in recent months. He believes that thefts are more prevalent in California than other areas of the country because the weather is mild year-round, so grease never reaches the semi-solid state that would make it more difficult for would-be thieves to collect it.

Convincing police to investigate grease thefts is a problem for businesses, said Koewler, so he's happy that Folsom officials took the complaint seriously and spent time working on the case. He's had past experiences with thefts that haven't gone nearly as well. "We've had cases that have been pretty solid and trying to get a district attorney to take on these cases with their high workload has been very problematic," he said.

Sacramento Rendering uses locks on their collection bins, but that is sometimes counterproductive because thieves end up completely destroying the container in order to get past the lock, he said.
 

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