10/14/2011 09:12 am ET Updated Dec 13, 2011

Cooking-Oil Theft: 2 Men Charged In Arlington Waste-Oil Scheme

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Two men have been charged in connection to a cooking-oil theft after Arlington County police officers caught the duo siphoning waste oil from the Ballston Common Mall last week. According to Clarendon Patch, Fa De Zheng, 36, of Oxon Hill, Md., and Ming Gang Lu, 38, of New York City, face charges of grand larceny, grand larceny with the intent to sell, possession of burglary tools and destruction of property.

Which such thefts may seem bizarre, they aren't uncommon. As The New York Times reported in 2008:

The suspects in a growing number of grease infractions fall into a range of categories, people interviewed on the matter said, as grease theft is a crime of opportunity. They include do-it-yourself environmentalists worried about their carbon footprints, warring waste management firms trying to beat each other on the sly, and petty thieves who are profiting from the oil’s rising value on the black market.

And the problem may be getting worse.

In Arlington, the waste-oil thefts were reported by a Charlottesville-based biodiesel operation, Greenlight Biofuels, which has noticed at least six such thefts since March at sites it collects waste oil from. In an interview with Patch, Steve Blankenship, a Greenlight regional manager, said that his firm, which is losing 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil to theft per month, is working with law enforcement officials in multiple area jurisdictions.

The Washington Post notes that the Arlington arrests mark "a major breakthrough in combating an emerging form of commodity theft."

"This has been happening for a number of years now, but in the last year, it's really ramped up," Blankenship told Patch. "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."

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Two Charged in Metro Cooking Oil Thefts: MyFoxATLANTA.com