A Kerrygold butter smuggling ring has been busted in Wisconsin, the only state in the US where the famous Irish butter is illegal.
Four residents of Janesville, Wisconsin (the hometown of House Speaker Paul Ryan) have been charged in violation of state statute 97.176, which stipulates that it is “unlawful to sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in possession with intent to sell, any butter at retail unless it has been graded” according to Wisconsin’s requirements, bearing either a federal or Wisconsin grade mark.
Kerrygold, which is processed, packaged and graded in Ireland, does not. While the Irish butter had managed to fly under the radar for long enough to develop a fervent fan-base in Wisconsin, authorities have been cracking down in the illicit dairy product in recent years, slapping offenders with fines of up to $1,000 and the possibility of six months jail time.
That is the sentence that potentially awaits Bonnie Salers, Angus Dunne, and Jon and Donna Romagnola of Janesville, who were arrested yesterday in a sting operation.
The lactose-loving quartet, all retirees in their late 60s, had allegedly been running a Kerrygold smuggling ring for close to one year, driving across state lines to Illinois and Iowa to purchase blocks of salted and unsalted Kerrygold.
According to a report on local station WKOW27, the four were allegedly stockpiling Kerrygold in an industrial-sized refrigerator in Dunne’s garage and re-selling it to a butter-hungry client-base that grew rapidly by word-of-mouth.
The authorities caught wind of a Kerrygold scheme when sanitation workers in the area reported seeing a sharply increased number of Kerrygold's trademark silver and gold foil wrappers in the trash.
They tried for a number of months to pinpoint the source of the contraband creamery, but the culprits kept slipping through their fingers.
Eventually, the identities of the smugglers were clarified and undercover dairy agents posing as typical Irish butter lovers began making inroads with the group, attending a butter-themed potluck where they got the scoop on how to obtain a pat for themselves.
Once they were admitted to Dunne’s garage, they were awed to see the mass quantities of Kerrygold – conservatively estimated to be around 500 pounds worth.
After a brief stand-off, the four lipid bandits were taken in for questioning.
Speaking with WKOW27 Jon and Donna’s son Dexter maintained that his parents and their friends are innocent, were merely great butter enthusiasts, and that the vast collection of Kerrygold was strictly for their personal use.
He said that all four had signed the petition calling on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to change the current legislation, which they viewed as a transparent attempt to privilege Wisconsin dairy, and were in strong support of the lawsuit recently brought against the state by a group of residents and a local food company.
“So sue them, they love butter,” he said, adding that he didn’t mean the first part literally. “They weren’t trying to churn up trouble or anything.”
Agent Devon Holstein called that "an absolute crock." He commented that he was happy to have gotten to the bottom of the puzzle. “There was something rancid in the state of Wisconsin, and we’re pleased to have figured out the source,” he said.
The court case begins today April 1st, April Fool's day.
This is a breaking story, please check back for updates.
Update: April Fools!