Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

January 30, 2013

Cardboard, dirt, grease — trash is treasure to thieves

NAPLES, Fla. — Turns out that saying about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure is pretty accurate — criminals who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty are now targeting dirt, cardboard, even cooking grease.

“All of these things picked up over the last four or five years during the recession,” said Lt. John Morrisseau of the Collier County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office’s criminal investigations division. “We started seeing more of these odd thefts.”

Earlier this month in Collier County, detectives began investigating the theft of 50 to 60 truckloads of dirt from a property in Golden Gate Estates. Days later, they arrested two Miami-Dade County men accused of stealing three cardboard bales from a Target store on Pine Ridge Road.

And in Lee County, detectives are investigating the theft of a 30-foot tall, 100-year-old Southern red cedar tree worth an estimated $3,000. The tree was apparently cut down sometime in mid-January from a property in Bonita Springs.

“What it comes down to is people are pretty good at figuring out how to make money,” Morrisseau said.

Cardboard in particular is an easy target, deputies say. A bale can be recycled for around $300, making it a lucrative item but also increasing the penalty for stealing it to felony grand theft.

“When they steal it, it’s already packaged for them and ready to go,” Morrisseau said

Dirt, on the other hand, is harder to steal since it requires equipment necessary to load it and haul enough off to be profitable. A ton of fill dirt sells anywhere from $2 to $5, with a dump truck holding about 20 tons, said Lee Gates, an estimator with the Golden Gate business Florida Dirt Service.

“The term ’dirt cheap’ applies, but it isn’t something that doesn’t have a cost,” he said. “Stealing a lot of it without any kind of heavy equipment and not being detected sounds like you must have your stuff together to pull off something like that.”

But in 2007, a Golden Gate man did just that. Mehrl Stuhl III was accused of stealing hundreds of truckloads of dirt from three construction sites in Golden Gate Estates and was ordered to pay one property owner $11,500 after he pleaded no contest to grand theft in 2008.

“The guy started almost like a business where he found a vacant area out in the Estates and had dump trucks that came to his site and backhoes getting the dirt and selling them to different developments that needed truckloads of fill dirt,” Morrisseau said.

Even old cooking oil from fast-food and other restaurants can make a buck. In 2010, deputies caught two Miami-Dade County men who stole 250 gallons of grease -- valued at $500 -- from a Long John Silver’s and a Wendy’s in East Naples.

Those thefts still happen from time to time, but it’s not something law enforcement encounters regularly, said Lt. Larry King, a spokesman for the Lee County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office.

“You see it, but it doesn’t happen on a weekly basis or monthly, for that matter,” King said. “Usually, it’s an organized group, especially when you get into cooking oil.”

For the most part, officials say thieves still target the more obvious valuables like jewelry and electronics, although some criminals tend to be more creative with what they steal.

“It all just depends on the trends -- we saw thefts of copper when there was pretty good money for it,” Morrisseau said. “Again, all these things are just different ways to make money. There’s almost always a buyer in whatever you take.”

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

    Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed Wednesday to form a unity government and hold new elections — a potentially historic step toward mending the rift that has split their people between two sets of rulers for seven years.

    April 24, 2014

  • Obama administration weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer.

    April 24, 2014

  • Earns Facebook_Stew.jpg Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

    Facebook’s earnings nearly tripled and revenue grew sharply in the first quarter, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations thanks to an 82 percent increase in advertising revenue.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Georgia Gun Bill_Stew.jpg Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

    Criticized by one group as the “guns everywhere” bill, Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed carriers can take their weapons, with the governor signing a law that allows them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Clemson Spring Game F_Stew.jpg Clemson’s Swinney won’t change after complaint

    Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday he wouldn’t change procedures after the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter of complaint expressing concerns about the football program’s connection to the coach’s Christian religion.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1800, Congress approved a bill establishing the Library of Congress.

    April 24, 2014

  • Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • ‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

    Gunmen who targeted both children and the elderly left “piles and piles” of bodies — many of those in a mosque — in a provincial capital in South Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official in the country said Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results