Business owner: Thieves taking used cooking oil from restaurants in Albert Lea

Published 6:01 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

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An area business owner reported a crime he says is common across the country on Thursday to Albert Lea police in the theft of an estimated 1,000 pounds of used vegetable oil. 

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

He says he goes through an estimated 1.2 million pounds of oil in a year. 

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Bordeaux said typically he waits until one of the restaurants he works with calls and says the oil is ready to be picked up, but no one had 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 check on the oil himself at all of his restaurants and found that the storage containers there — at Thirsty Fox Pub & Grill, The Elbow Room, Wok-N-Roll and Al’s Burgers & Chicken — were empty, too. 

He suspected the thief went to other restaurants in town as well that he does not work with and did the same thing there. 

“Usually when they steal one, they steal the whole town, and that’s what happened, they stole the whole town,” Bordeaux said. 

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

Bordeaux said the theft of vegetable oil isn’t something new and is actually something he has dealt with for many years. 

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

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

The crime has been reported in many other states throughout the country leading to charges for many, including organized theft rings and people who are facing federal charges for millions stolen in oil. 

Bordeaux said Albert Lea police took his report of the theft, and he told officers to be mindful if they saw any box trucks out at night next to these restaurants. He said the thieves can do multiple towns a night. 

He said he has tried to be proactive by locking his containers, and he also makes an effort to empty the containers before they are over half full. 

In the meantime, he is frustrated as it is his livelihood that was taken from underneath him. 

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