Company pays fine to get truck back

HARTFORD — The owner of a box truck involved in the illegal dumping of cooking oil in Naugatuck has paid a $7,000 state fine to get the vehicle back.

Attorney General William Tong and Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess announced the payment Oct. 8.

Meanwhile, criminal charges are pending against two New York men charged with dumping the cooking oil in the vicinity of the Thurston Pond reservoir on Aug. 16.

Chang Mei Zou, 30, and Yu Xiang Zheng, 24, are scheduled to appear in Waterbury Superior Court on Nov. 4. Both men were released on promises to appear following their Aug. 20 arrests.

Tong and Hess announced Quin Zen Chen, owner of R & L Oil Recycling in New Britain, recently paid a $7,000 fine to secure the return of the box truck.

Chen was served with a forfeiture summons after the arrests of Zou and Zheng. Connecticut state law allows for the seizure of vehicles used in violations of certain environmental laws, including illegal dumping.

“The theft and dumping in this case was serious. This kind of illegal activity will not be tolerated,” Tong said.

The $7,000 fine will be deposited in a local fund to combat illegal dumping and blight in Naugatuck, the announcement said.

“This is just the beginning of a concerted effort to stop illegal dumping in Naugatuck. We will pursue all available remedies against all perpetrators including criminal prosecutions, significant fines and vehicle forfeiture,” Hess said.

The investigation that led to the fine and arrests started when a borough resident reported two men dumping oil from a commercial truck behind a shopping plaza on Rubber Avenue.

The two men departed before Naugatuck police arrived on the scene, but the responding officers observed a 3,900-foot trail of spilled oil leading from the nearby Stop & Shop loading dock to the dumping site.

Police said that two individuals had stolen the cooking oil by loading it onto tanks in the rear of the box truck. Discovering that the tanks were overfilled, they allegedly pulled into a wetlands area and dumped the used cooking oil from the truck onto the ground.

Zou and Zheng were each arrested on a felony charge of knowingly violating water pollution control requirements, misdemeanor charges of sixth-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny, and littering violation.

Zou and Zheng are scheduled to enter pleas when they appear next in court on Nov. 4, according to online court records.