Grease Trap

Janesville, Wisconsin, Paul Ryan’s Hometown, Plagued by Grease Thieves

Think this will rate a mention at tonight’s vice-presidential debate? Two men were arrested early Wednesday in Janesville, Wis., home of Rep. Paul Ryan, for allegedly stealing 1,000 pounds of grease. Michael Daly reports.

10.11.12 8:45 AM ET

On the eve of the vice-presidential debate, Rep. Paul Ryan’s hometown witnessed a crime so foul as to churn the stomach.

Grease stealing.

To be specific, the grease that two men were pumping from the repository at a Janesville, Wis., Wendy’s early Wednesday morning. They were surprised by a driver from the authorized collector, the Sanimax company.

The alleged culprits sped off in their unmarked Isuzu delivery truck with some 1,000 pounds of the gunk, estimated to have a “street value” of some $3,700 if sold to be recycled as bio-diesel fuel. The Sanimax man trailed them and contacted the Janesville police dispatcher. Police stopped the alleged thieves as they were about to make off with their grease on Interstate 90.

Afterward, police noted that grease worth more than $25,000 had been reported stolen from various Janesville eateries back on June 22. No arrests were made in those earlier thefts. A police spokesman suggested it was likely the work of the same two who were collared on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we have a big used oil ring,” the spokesman, police Officer Chad Sullivan, said.

The officer noted that there might very well have been other thefts that went unreported.

“Who knows how much grease they got away with before?” Sullivan asked.

And there remains the possibility of future thefts. Janesville may have taken a huge hit when the big GM plant there closed just before Barack Obama became president, but new industry is slowly moving in and things are on the rebound. Enough people are still eating outside the home that there is plenty of grease.

“We have a Texas Roadhouse that has a lot of it,” Sullivan noted.

One problem with the present case is that the initial reports suggest that the arresting officers did not confiscate the grease as evidence.

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“Which is kind of a big issue with us,” Sullivan said.

By then the two suspects, 28-year-old Enrique Jaime and 21-year-old David Clark, both of Illinois, had already been photographed, fingerprinted, and freed pending ultimate disposition of misdemeanor theft charges.

“We give them a court date and cut them loose,” Sullivan said.

He added that the Janesville police were at that very moment preparing an alert for other Wisconsin cops to keep an eye out for grease stealing.

“I would imagine there are a lot of police departments that don’t know if it’s illegal,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, grease has given rise to a whole industry, in which the Canadian firm Sanimax is a major player. The Sanimax website appeals to eatery owners by saying, “When you’re running a busy food service operation, you shouldn’t have to spend time worrying about clogged drain lines, foul odors, or costly sewer back-ups. And with Sanimax’s grease trap services, you don’t.”

The website goes on, “Need more reasons to choose Sanimax? We renew all the grease we collect, so that you can feel good about contributing to a cleaner environment.”

That also contributes to bigger profits for Sanimax, or whoever gets to the grease first.

One question that arises is what was done to dispose of the grease before anyone imagined it might be worth the trouble of recycling, much less stealing.

“It scares me to they got rid of it back in the day,” Officer Sullivan said.

What has not changed is that fast-food customers in Janesville and elsewhere can expect to get plenty of grease with their meals. It is only what is left over after the cooking that ends up in the traps.

Meanwhile, the rising price of oil might very well get a mention in Thursday’s vice-presidential debate.

Grease stealing likely won’t get a mention, even if it’s happening right in Ryan’s hometown.

At least nobody has tried to blame the grease heists on Obama.

Not yet, anyway.