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Diatribe: Stealing Manhole Covers To Sell As Scrap Metal.

01/26/2013
Golden Goat

An Exceptionally Tidy Golden Goat Machine

We used to have huge reverse vending machines around town that were called Golden Goats.  They were, essentially, enormous trash compactors and their purpose was to collect aluminum cans.  There was one particular Golden Goat that resided on the edge of a parking lot in a local plaza, convenient enough to encourage my household to recycle.  We would collect empty soda and beer cans and keep them in a tub in the garage until someone made a “Golden Goat Run”.

The Golden Goat had a bin on its front the size of a kitchen sink and, in this bin, there was a hole where cans were to be inserted one at a time.  After pressing the START button, we would feed the empty cans into the whirring machine one after the other until they were compressed and pushed around inside … making a God awful racket in the process.  The Golden Goat rewarded us for our efforts by dispensing a quarter for every pound or so of aluminum that was deposited.  After several long minutes of shoving cans into the machine, we’d hear the clink of a coin and, if we had brought a particularly large amount of cans, we would wait until the machine stopped running to be certain that a follow-up coin was not expelled.

Photo: Polk County Sheriff's Office (01/25/13)

Photo: Polk County Sheriff’s Office (01/25/13)

I’m all for recycling but Christopher Fink has elevated the recycling of scrap metal to a new and illegal degree.  Detectives arrested him on Thursday after naming him as a suspect who they say has stolen one hundred seventy-seven steel manhole covers from the streets of Poinciana, Florida.  Apparently, the forty-year-old man had resold over 13,000 pounds of cast iron manhole covers to local metal dealers.

The majority of the manhole covers were stolen from the side of the road and not in roadways so, fortunately, no pedestrians were hurt.  Because the payout for scrap metal can be quite high, manhole cover theft is not a new crime.  While some see it as vandalism, serious injuries and deaths have occurred from falls associated with missing manhole covers so penalties for their removal can be quite severe.  Fink, for example, is charged with one count Grand Theft, once count Dealing in Stolen Property, and one count Giving False Verification to a Secondhand Metal Dealer, which are all felony charges.  Additional charges may also be pending.

Crimes of this nature usually involve more than one person.  Fink may likely be a new record holder for a single thief operation … that’s quite the claim to fame.

As I think back to all the many cans that I hauled to The Golden Goat over the years their total weight might be that of a single manhole cover.  I can’t imagine someone hauling off that much metal all by himself without anyone even trying to stop him.

Pulling up to a Golden Goat with a trunk full of empty cans only to find an OUT OF ORDER sign is a kind of disappointment all its own.  Before its ultimate demise, the Golden Goat was out-of-order more often that it was functioning.  Possibly, this was because someone had vandalized it in search of coins.  Or maybe an imbecile who did not comprehend the concept of “one-at-a-time” had jammed it up.  Perhaps the hole in the Golden Goat was small in order to prevent people like Fink from trying to recycle manhole covers.

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8 Comments
  1. I’ve heard of this too. My first thought is why isn’t there a corresponding law to punish the scrap metal processors? First, they know they’re dealing in stolen goods and second, they can’t make that much to risk the possible fines and criminal charges.

  2. Interesting story. I agree with Justajeepguy. Yet, you have to hand it to the crook for resourcefulness, even though it is a crime. BTG

  3. I don’t know about where you come from, but our manhole covers here say quite distinctly “Property of City of Edmonton.” Those Golden Goat things sound interesting, but a bit time consuming. Here in Alberta we recycle our pop & beer cans at the “Bottle Depot” so we take all our recyclables at the same time. You go in with your pop bottles, milk jugs, pop cans & dump them into a large table where workers quickly sort & count the various items & come up with a price. If you take in a huge garbage bag of mixed – it usually works out to about $10. We recently bought a can crusher so we can fit more cans into the recycle bin before we have to make a trip to the Bottle Depot.

    • Oh, how I wish it was that easy for us to recycle. It’s actually quite an ordeal in my neck of the woods.

      Our manhole covers are marked, too. That’s one of the reasons that I think the scrap metal dealer that bought them from this guy should be charged with something.

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