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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Joplin Man Pleads Guilty to $5.6 Million Cooking Oil Scheme

Must Forfeit Nearly $600,000 Seized by Officers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges related to a scheme to sell more than $5.8 million worth of spent cooking oil – stolen from restaurants across five states – to a recycling facility in Oklahoma.

 

Jeffery Lynn Fleming, 60, of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to transporting stolen goods across state lines, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

 

Jeffery Fleming, who operated Fleming Recycling, LLC, in Carterville, Mo., sold approximately $5,831,567 worth of spent cooking oil that had been stolen from restaurants to Brooks Grease Service, a grease recycling business in Tulsa, Okla., between Nov. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011.

 

Spent cooking oil is the by-product of cooking oil that restaurants use for frying food. Restaurants had on-site collection tanks in which their spent cooking oil was stored. Many restaurants established contracts with various companies for the collection and removal of spent cooking oil. Brooks Grease Service sent a tanker truck to Fleming Recycling on an almost-daily basis, according to court documents. Each tanker truck held approximately 45,000 pounds of stolen spent cooking oil that was valued at approximately $20,000.

 

Jeffery Fleming was repeatedly told by undercover agents that the spent cooking oil he was purchasing, storing at his storage facility and selling to Brooks Grease Service was stolen. Undercover agents also negotiated a deal with Jeffery Fleming for the use of one of his trucks. Undercover agents told him they were using his truck to steal spent cooking oil; they charged him one-fourth the going price for the entire load of stolen spent cooking oil hauled by his employees in his collection truck.

 

Jeffery Fleming also admitted that he significantly underreported his gross receipts on his 2007 federal income tax return.

 

Fleming’s brother and co-defendant, Brian Dale Fleming, 49, of Mountain Grove, Mo., pleaded guilty on Nov. 19, 2015, to his role in the conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines and to money laundering. Brian Fleming has also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Brian Fleming admitted that he used his business, Tri-State Grease, to transport stolen spent cooking oil to Fleming Recycling. Brian Fleming admitted that he trained, encouraged and aided others to steal spent cooking oil from businesses in order to sell it to Fleming Recycling.

 

Under the terms of their plea agreements, Jeffery and Brian Fleming must forfeit to the government $595,429 that was seized by law enforcement officers, which was derived from the sale of stolen spent cooking oil.

 

Co-defendants Virgil Orin Bird, Jr., 53, and Neal Sawyer Robbins, 29, both of Joplin, were employees of Fleming Recycling. They each pleaded guilty to money laundering related to a payment for spent cooking oil they believed had been stolen and transported across state lines.

 

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Abram McGull, II and Patrick Carney. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Updated May 17, 2016