Cooking oil thefts are on the rise, Suffolk police said,...

Cooking oil thefts are on the rise, Suffolk police said, as thieves siphon off the used oil and sell is as biodiesel. Credit: Bloomberg/Angel Garcia

In the latest example of what Suffolk County police said has been a rash of more than 100 incidents so far this year, a Queens man has been arrested and charged with stealing cooking oil on at least five occasions from a Chick-fil-A store in Huntington Station.

Police said Hector Castrol-Espinal, 23, of 88th Avenue in Woodside, stole the used cooking oil by siphoning it into a rented truck, then reselling it. He was arrested Wednesday, charged with five counts of petit larceny.

Police said Castrol-Espinal was issued a desk-appearance ticket — and faces arraignment at a later date in First District Court in Central Islip.

Second Precinct Crime Section detectives have been investigating the cooking oil thefts since January and police said Castrol-Espinal was charged with stealing the oil from the fast-food restaurant on five separate occasions — Jan. 24, Jan. 31, Feb. 10, Feb. 18 and March 23.

It's estimated that Castrol-Espinal stole about 500 gallons of oil, police said, using a special hose attachment to siphon it from storage tanks.

Authorities believe more businesses may have been targeted and are asking anyone with information about potential thefts to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment on the thefts.

In Nassau County, cooking oil thefts rose from eight in 2021 to 13 in 2022, according to Det. Michael Bitsko. Nassau police made five arrests in 2021 and three in 2022. So far this year, there have been eight cases in Nassau with six resulting in arrests, according to Nassau police data as of March 13.

Cooking oil thefts have been on the rise since the early 2000s, law enforcement authorities and industry officials said, because the oil is converted to biodiesel fuel.

Thefts were especially high between about 2016 and 2021 because of biodiesel prices. They then spiked again in mid-to-late 2022, industry officials said.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the fuels created are B20 and B99-B100 and said that in October prices for the two were at $4.99 and $5.78 a gallon, respectively, for the refined products.

Currently, they are at $4.66 and $5.22 a gallon, the USDOE said.

Advanced Biofuels USA, an industry advocate, said thieves have been taking what it described on its website as "a huge chunk" of the "multimillion-dollar industry" and a Food & Wine magazine report estimated that at the height of thefts in 2017 thieves stole $75 million worth of cooking oil to be converted to biodiesel on the black market.

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