The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 18, 2012

Sarcoxie man pleads guilty to illegal deal in scam to sell stolen cooking oil

From staff reports

SARCOXIE, Mo. — Jesse Arnold, 46, Sarcoxie, pleaded guilty in federal court today to structuring financial deals in such a way that he could evade federal reporting rules that would bring attention to his scheme to sell stolen cooking oil.

Arnold waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to the charge, according to a statement released today by David Ketchmark, acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Arnold must forfeit to the government $207,817 that was seized from his business bank account.

Arnold operated 4 States Grease Co., a Sarcoxie business that collected used cooking oil, which is a  byproduct of either vegetable or animal fat oil used by restaurants. It can be repurposed for use as biodegradable diesel fuel and made into other recyclable products. Because it has value, restaurants contract with companies to sell their spent cooking oil so it can be recycled.

Arnold, who directed 4 States Grease Co. from 2009 to November 2011, admitted that he had reason to suspect he was buying used cooking oil that had been stolen by others from businesses in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“(They) sold the spent cooking oil to Arnold under circumstances that would have caused a reasonable person to know that it had been stolen,” Ketchmark’s released stated.

Arnold and 4 States Grease Co. then sold the spent cooking oil to Brooks Grease Service, and had it transported to Brooks’s factory in Tulsa, Okla., for processing.

But in order to avoid federal reporting requirements that could bring unwanted scrutiny to his business, Arnold “deliberately and knowingly” structured withdrawals from his business checking account so as not to attract attention, according to Ketchmark’s office, which stated that Arnold made numerous withdrawals on consecutive days that were individually less than $10,000, but which totaled more than $10,000 when added together.

According to Ketchmark, under federal law, banks must file a currency transaction report for any financial transaction over $10,000. The crime of structuring occurs when a person, in order to knowingly keep the financial institution from filing a currency transaction report, breaks up the transaction into smaller components that are each less than $10,000.

All of the cash withdrawals from Jan. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2011, were done by checks written to “Cash” and signed by Arnold. Many of the cash withdrawals were done on successive banking days and were for $9,000 for each withdrawal. There were no single cash withdrawals over $10,000.

“The parties stipulate that the most readily provable amount that the defendant was responsible for structuring was $243,000,” Ketchmark’s office stated.

Under federal statutes, Jesse Arnold, Sarcoxie, is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.