DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The Department of Homeland Security is investigating a Durham business accused of stealing and selling used cooking oil in multiple states.
Restaurants sell used cooking oil to refineries, who then process and recycle it.
The cooking oil can be used to make bio-fuel, soap, rubber, makeup, clothes and detergents, according to a search warrant filed in federal court in the Middle District of North Carolina.
According to court documents, the company is accused of stealing and selling thousands of pounds of stolen oil over the course of five years.
In one night the suspected crooks drove a box truck to 13 restaurants in Durham, Apex and Cary to steal more than 9,000 pounds of oil, which they then sold in another state, court documents say.
Investigators say the thefts hurt the bottom lines of both the restaurants which sell the oil to rendering companies and the rendering companies which sell the converted bio-fuel.
“They are really just wreaking havoc on property owners, restaurants. It’s really terrible for our business. It’s a serious problem,” said Dylan Gehrken, the founder of Greasecycle.
Greasecycle is a Raleigh company that clears grease traps and collects cooking oil, through the state, from small restaurants to large dining halls. They then take the used oil, refine it and convert it into bio-fuel.
“We take this dirty, stinky, smelly grease and turn it into a renewable fuel,” Gehrken said.
Gehrken says theft has become such an issue his company hires private investigators to stake out their equipment. The company works with local and federal law enforcement.
“We might go to 30 restaurants, and on a given route it’s safe to say one or two of those restaurants have been vandalized, pilfered and broken into,” Gehrken said.
According to the search warrant, investigators seized four box trucks and approximately 50,000 pounds of used cooking oil from a storage unit associated with the accused business.
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