An unusual crime in Salem, New Hampshire sheds light on the growing black market in cooking grease.
Three New York men are facing charges after they were caught siphoning used cooking oil from a trap behind a local restaurant.
According to police, as gasoline prices rise, these crimes are becoming more common.
The owner of Border Brewery in Salem knew something strange was going on when he saw several men wearing ski masks inside a battered van snooping around his building before 5 a.m. Friday.
“As they walked past me, two of the men I could see had ski goggles on their faces, and I knew right away that wasn’t Salem’s character,” he said. he declares.
The man didn’t want NBC10 Boston to use his name. He told us that he immediately called the police.
Officers caught up with the three suspects shortly after at a nearby gas station.
“Investigation showed they had two tanks in the back of their modified Chevy pickup truck,” Salem Police Capt. Jason Smith said. “They were sucking up yellow grease from restaurants that actually has value now.”
Smith says the men siphoned $1,000 worth of old cooking oil from the trap behind the New Chief Wok restaurant.
“We change the oil twice a week,” said Chief Wok’s new owner, Jenny Gao.
She was shocked to learn that there is a black market for her used cooking grease.
According to the police, criminals steal it and resell it to companies that use it to make biofuel.
“It’s on the rise,” Smith said. “People we spoke to said they had to come to New England because everyone in New York is already stealing grease from restaurants there.”
As for Gao, she is now working on getting a lock for her oil trap and says she is just grateful her neighbor was in the right place at the right time.
“When I was told it was grease, I was like, ‘That’s new, I’ve never heard that before,'” the owner of Border Brewery said.
Similar crimes were reported in surrounding towns. Now, police are working to determine if the same three suspects are responsible.