21 Aug 2014
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Not-So-Slick Getaway

Police charge two in series of used cooking oil thefts.

Not-So-Slick Getaway

These days, a life of crime can be quite a slippery slope.

The Arlington County Police Department has arrested two men in connection with a series of used cooking oil thefts.

Fa De Zheng, 36, of Oxon Hill, Md., and Ming Gang Lu, 38, of New York City, have been charged with grand larceny, grand larceny with the intent to sell, possession of burglary tools and destruction of property.

Officers apprehended them Friday as they attempted to siphon the used oil from a deposit at the Ballston Mall, according to a news release that was issued today.

"The problem is it gets dumped in there, and the restaurant's not necessarily checking it -- and the company comes to collect it, and it's gone," police Detective Crystal Nosal said.

Charlottesville, Va.-based Greenlight Biofuels, which collects waste vegetable oil and converts it into biodiesel, first contacted police in September, though the thefts have been taking place since March, according to investigators.

Greenlight has reported at least six thefts in Arlington, Nosal said. At least four restaurants serviced by Greenlight have been struck.

Steve Blankenship, a Greenlight regional manager, told Patch his company is working with law enforcement agencies throughout the Washington-Baltimore corridor on several active investigations.

Greenlight is losing 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil to theft per month, Blankenship said.

The price of the oil fluctuates between $2 to $4 a gallon.

"This has been happening for a number of years now, but in the last year, it's really ramped up," Blankenship said. "More and more people are becoming aware of it and aware of its value. It's a relatively new industry and therefore it's a relatively new product."

The specific incident for which Arlington police issued charges involved "a couple hundred" gallons of waste vegetable oil, Blankenship said. The value must have been more than $200 to trigger the grand larceny charge.

Blankenship called that "relatively minor" in the grand scheme of things.

But, "now that we're getting some traction with the police department and the media, we're hoping this acts as a deterrent," he said.

Thieves typically siphon the oil into drums to carry it away, Nosal said.

Police departments in the region are becoming more involved to combat the escalating problem of used cooking oil theft, according to the Arlington release.

Investigators are asking anyone with additional information about these incidents to contact Detective Paul Marseilles at 703-228-4237 or pmarseilles@arlingtonva.us.

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