Beware: Thieves across Atlanta stealing cooking oil, and it could cause big problems for you

ATLANTA — Thieves across metro Atlanta are stealing an unusual “liquid gold” – used cooking oil.

It isn’t just restaurant owners who are hurt by this crime. It’s leading to spills that threaten our water supply and cause crashes.

Surveillance video shows thieves backing up a white van to steal used cooking oil from Divan restaurant in Midtown Atlanta.

[PHOTOS: Cooking oil thefts caught on camera]

They spilled some of the oil. Video shows it seeping into the street.

“I go to turn, and then suddenly I’m down. Like my bike is sliding across the road. It’s crazy,” said 17-year-old Ashlyn Whitfield.

Her motorcycle hit that patch of cooking oil and she wiped out.

Channel 2 Action News obtained police body camera video of the teenager talking to an officer after crashing on Peachtree Street at 15th Street in July.

Fortunately, Whitfield only scraped her knee.

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She snapped photos of the sand crews used to cover the oil after she wrecked.

“I was so flabbergasted to hear that there was some secret underground cooking oil ring,” said Whitfield.

The same spill caused a car to crash earlier that morning.

“And I ended up hitting that pole there,” said the woman who crashed on police body camera video.

Thieves are stealing used cooking oil from restaurants across north Georgia.

“Police are trying to find two men who stole used cooking oil from an Athens Chick-Fil-A,” said Channel 2′s Wendy Corona during an October 16th newscast.


Channel 2 Action News obtained surveillance videos of thefts in Norcross, Hiram, and the Pig-N-Chik in Chamblee.

“Well, it’s been going on for years, but it’s just gotten really bad lately,” said Bill Marrack, the co-owner of Pig-N-Chik.

He said when workers clean out the fryer the oil ends up in a container behind the restaurant.

“And then the thieves come along, and they cut the locks off and lift this up and cram their hose down there to steal the oil,” Marrack.

Pig-N-Chik gets paid by a company that recycles the oil. Usually, the checks are for a couple hundred dollars. But with thieves frequently hitting the BBQ joint, sometimes on back-to-back nights, they are much smaller.

“I deposited one for $12,” said Marrack.

Channel 2 Action News got video of a worker for Dar Pro, a legit company, collecting Pig-N-Chik’s oil with the proper equipment.

“A 300-gallon container behind this restaurant here might be worth around $1,400,” said Frank Scoggins, head of security for Darling Ingredients, Dar Pro’s parent company.

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Currently, used cooking oil is worth about 65 cents a pound.

“Primary uses are alternative fuel,” said Scoggins.

It’s also used in livestock feed and pet food. But in the wrong hands, oil can create expensive messes. Scoggins said thieves often spill oil that can get close to sewer drains.

“When it goes into the water system, it’ll clog,” said Scoggins.

That is one reason the company collects surveillance video to help police catch the thieves.

Chamblee Police arrested a man they caught in the act and on video. He is charged with stealing more than $900 worth of oil from Pig-N-Chik.

“I got three container trucks that look like they’re off-loading grease into,” said a Doraville Police officer on body camera video.

It shows officers questioning three men transferring used cooking oil into a large construction tanker in October. An investigator with Darling Ingredients said it contained about 8,000 gallons of oil worth $39,000.

“Is the oil stolen or not?” asked a Doraville Police officer on body camera video.

“No, no,” said the suspect.

“You’re lying. It’s stolen,” said the officer.

“This is not stolen oil,” said the suspect.

One of the trucks has the same marking on the front fender – FOG 113-281 as a truck seen stealing oil in surveillance video. But police say the three men are charged only with trespassing because they do not have enough evidence to charge them with theft.

Ashlyn Whitfield has a message for all oil thieves: “It definitely is not a victimless crime. You’re affecting people’s safety,” said Whitfield.

The National Renderers Association estimates that up to $75 million worth of used cooking oil is stolen a year.

Frank Scoggins with Darling Ingredients said both individual thieves and organized theft rings are big in the South currently.