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BENNINGTON — A Yonkers duo accused by police of attempting to steal used cooking oil from behind Ramunto’s restaurant in Bennington were no-shows at their scheduled arraignments Monday morning, prompting a judge to issue arrest warrants for both men.

Carlos Santiago, 25, and Luis Contreras, 29, of Yonkers, N.Y., were caught behind Ramunto’s on Nov. 5, after Bennington Police were informed of a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot behind the restaurant.

According to a police affidavit, a white Ford van with New York tags was backed up next to the used cooking oil tank. When they approached the vehicle, police said Santiago told them he’d stopped to urinate. At the request of the police, Santiago opened the side door of the van. Inside the van, police found two approximately 275-gallon tanks hooked up with plastic pipes and a portable pump.

Officers noticed oil covering the floor in the back of the van. When police told Santiago they knew what was happening, he allegedly admitted being there to take the used oil but said he did not get any, because someone got there before him. He also told police that someone else was with him, Contreras, and that he was hiding nearby. Santiago agreed to call Contreras on his cellphone; Contreras emerged, covered in dirt, to talk with the police.

According to the affidavit, the town of Bennington has had several problems with people stealing used cooking oil from businesses, and a similar vehicle has been reported in the thefts.

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Santiago allegedly told police that he sells the oil to “someone in New York City,” and that person usually gives him $800. Santiago also told police that he paid Contreras $100 to help him.

Based on police estimates, the van was capable of stealing about 550 gallons of used oil, at $4.50 a gallon, with a value of $2,475.

Santiago and Contreras were issued citations to appear Monday morning for their arraignment, but neither man showed up. Judge Kerry McDonald-Cary issued arrest warrants for both men.

Santiago has a criminal history in the state of New York, including a larceny conviction. Contreras has no criminal history.

Ramunto’s was the victim of a theft on Nov. 17, when two Bennington men were cited for stealing empty beer kegs from behind the restaurant. They were identified as Joseph L. Hewson, 30, and Richard M. Stell, 32. They were apprehended two days later and released with citations to appear in Bennington Superior Court later this month for the offense of larceny.


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