Two local men, including one from Centreville, face charges for allegedly stealing a valuable commodity at restaurants all over the region: used cooking oil.
Prince William County Police say that Chun Hyung Kim, of Chantilly, and Sung Yeop Yoo, of Centreville, stole the oil from restaurants all over the region. Officers captured Kim at the end of November and charged him with multiple offenses; authorities are still searching for Yoo.
Police said that the motive for the alleged thefts is part of the investigation and they were unable to discuss it. But they said cooking oil thefts are part of a new trend throughout the region.
Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch reported in late 2011 that thieves were beginning to make off with thousands of gallons of oil every month in Northern Virginia. Thefts of used cooking oil are a relatively new but growing crime. The reason? The oil can be converted to biodiesel fuels, an alternative for diesel engines, and can fetch a lot of money.
The victims in these cases were not the restaurants, said police spokesman Officer Jonathan Perok. Rather, the victims were Valley Protein and Greenlight Biofuel, the contractors who collect the fuel and recycle it into biofuel. They have reported multiple thefts from areas throughout the region, including Manassas, Woodbridge and Gainesville.
Witnesses have reported seeing a white van with Virginia tags and a gray van with New York tags. The restaurant’s locked used oil storage container would be opened and a hose inserted inside, Perok said. The hose vacuumed the oil out of the container and into a container in the van. The van would immediately leave.
Kim was observed driving behind Glory Days restaurant in Sommerset Crossing Shopping Center, Gainesville, on Nov. 21, 2012, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Prince William County Circuit Court in December. A Prince William officer conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle for a minor traffic violation and interviewed him.
According to the affidavit, Kim confessed that he had extracted used cooking oil from restaurants in Chantilly that morning without owner permission. The affidavit also states that he confessed to going to the shopping center in Gainesville so he could steal used cooking oil, and communicating with an accomplice over the phone.
Kim's court date is set for Feb. 13. He is charged with attempted grand larceny, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools.
Police are still looking for Yoo. He is described as an Asian male, 5'7" tall, 125 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He is wanted on charges of conspiracy to commit grand larceny and possession of burglarious tools. Anyone with information can call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS .