Oil wars! A Boulder oil recycling firm accuses a competitor of trespassing and theft
Waste oil recycling is supposed to be a feel-good industry, taking what used to be thrown away and turning it into fuel. But in Boulder, two oil recycling companies are engaging in a minor grease war. Sustainable Oil Service (SOS) has accused Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises (RMSE), also known as recycOil, of trespassing on its property and stealing $120,000 worth of used cooking oil and some barrels. RMSE Vice President Adam Hall pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge, while CEO and CFO Aaron Perry will go on trial September 27 for the same charge. An investigation into the theft charges is still underway.
The trespassing charge stems from a September 17, 2010, incident in which Perry, Hall and Lucian Eisenhauer allegedly forced their way into the SOS facility after hours and asked employees several questions about the business. A Boulder County Sheriff's report sent to Westword by SOS (on view below) states that SOS employees believed Perry and Hall to be under the influence of alcohol that night.
Hall pleaded guilty to trespassing in June and received a deferred sentence of eighteen months of unsupervised probation; he was also ordered to stay at least 100 feet away from SOS facilities. But Perry has denied all of the accusations and says Hall only pleaded guilty so he could move.
"Adam just recently got married and he and his wife had been planning to go to China for a two-year sabbatical, where she has a teaching opportunity," he says. "The DA offered both Adam and me the same offer. Because, at that point, his fiancée was not at all interested in delaying the trip, his only real, practical option was to take the offer, which means after a period of time the charge will be dropped. I, on the other hand, am here. And I'm not going to plead guilty to something I didn't do.
Hall couldn't be reached for comment; his voice mail message says he is on an extended sabbatical in southeast Asia.
But trespassing isn't the only issue. In the past year, SOS founder Kurt Lange has filed six police reports accusing RMSE of stealing used cooking oil from the barrels that he has located behind various restaurants and hotels up and down the Front Range.
Mark Husmann, an investigator for the Boulder District Attorney's Office, acknowledges that he has collected information on all six of the reports, but he wouldn't comment on the ongoing investigation. No charges have been filed based on these reports.
Lange filed reports for incidents at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids and Bit of Billiards in Longmont, Happa Sushi locations in Cherry Creek and Greenwood Village, Southern Sun Pub and Brewery in Boulder and the Inverness Hotel in Englewood. In all of them, he says employees of those businesses witnessed the thefts.
One of those workers, who asked that he and his employer remain anonymous, tells Westword that he did indeed see a truck from Rocky Mountain pumping oil from SOS barrels. "A couple of the employees that work for SOS I know personally and they had told me that they had been missing oil a couple of times and to keep my eyes peeled," he says, adding that his employer only uses SOS for waste-oil recycling.
Both SOS, a new company,and RMSE, which has been around since 2005, collect waste vegetable oil used in fryers by restaurants and take it to oil processing plants, where it can be turned into biodeisel fuel.
Lange says he was warned about RMSE before he started his company.
"We were told by some people that Rocky Mountain (RMSE) was known to do various things -- stealing and threatening, intimidation, that they would call state investigators on other companies," he says. "That was before I started SOS, and to be honest with you, I heard so much stuff I thought it was kind of unbelievable. I didn't think a company could be around doing those things. So I kind of ignored it and thought it was just grandiose talking or something. Within six months, everything we were warned about happened to us. It was real. I probably should have taken it more seriously to start with."
But Perry insists his company doesn't steal.
"We have 1,700 commercial customers. We're busy 24/7 providing the service to them that we provide. We have no need to steal and we don't steal," he says. "We expect that any allegations that might be out there will also be fully resolved in a similar manner that we expect this trespass allegation to be resolved."
Lange claims that one such alleged theft was caught on security cameras at the Inverness Hotel. In the video, on view below, a recycOil truck is seen suctioning oil out of two large barrels Lange claims are SOS barrels.
"At the Inverness location, 230 to 260 gallons of oil was removed in that video," says Lange. "That loss there I believe is over $670 in that one event, and that kind of event happens to us over forty times a year. And the only company that has ever been caught doing that to us is Rocky Mountain (RMSE)."
Perry is familiar with the video.
"I have seen that video and do not believe that is theft," says Perry, who declined to comment further because he says the theft charges relate to his upcoming trial for trespassing. He does question SOS's motives, however. "There are a lot of folks in the industry, a lot of competitors in the industry, and this sort of pattern that we're seeing with this group is pretty unusual and uncommon. I have to be honest, I'm at a bit of a loss as to why they would go about things the way they seem to be going about things."
Scroll down to view the Boulder County Sherrif's report and Boulder County Court Report.
More from our News archive: "Oil-shale plans could be derailed by ruling on Graham's penstemon, an endangered plant."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.