Two Oxford men face misdemeanor larceny charges after being caught stealing grease from the back of McLean’s Ole Time Cafe in Zebulon, according to police.
Juan Carlos De-La-Cruz-Gonza, 25, and Oscar Ugalde-Escalante, 26, both of 4162 South N.C. Highway 15, were arrested at 3 a.m. on Oct. 27 at the restaurant on West Gannon Avenue.
“The arrests were made when an alert and vigilant officer caught them in the act of stealing the grease,” said Zebulon police Lt. Scott Finch. Patrol Sgt. Edwin Killette made the discovery, Finch said.
Finch said the men were pumping grease from a storage container behind the restaurant into one of four 500-gallon containers in the back of a box truck.
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The men were caught in possession of 100 gallons of grease, according to Finch, who said he thought the substance held a value of $1 per gallon.
“This used grease is sold by the business to a company that picks it up and sells it to another company (that recycles it),” Finch said. “It’s probably as lucrative, although not your typical blue collar crime.”
Police suspect McLean’s sister restaurant, Hillbillies, and other locations in the area have also been hit by grease thieves. An investigation remains ongoing.
So far, police have seized two box trucks, including the one from the arrest made at McLean’s.
“We have submitted some evidence for forensic analysis that may lead to more victims and more (suspects) involved,” Finch said.
Finch said tracing stolen grease is a difficult task, but that there are only so many places that accept grease for recycling.
“Out of these places, there’s only a few in the state and now we think with the group involved we’re pretty sure they’ve been going into Virginia to make the sale.”
Ugalde-Escalante was released from jail Nov. 7 after posting $5,000 bail, a detention center spokesman said. De-La-Cruz-Gonza was released Nov. 10, according to Zebulon police.