New Hampshire

3 NY Men Caught Stealing Grease From NH Restaurant, Police Say

Police in Salem, New Hampshire, are investigating the syphoning of used cooking oil from a trap behind a restaurant, a crime authorities say is becoming more common with rising gas prices

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An unusual crime in Salem, New Hampshire, is shedding light on the growing black market for kitchen grease.

Three men from New York are facing charges after they were caught syphoning used cooking oil from a trap behind a local restaurant.

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Police say as gas prices go up, these crimes are becoming more and more common.

The owner of Border Brewery in Salem knew something strange was going on when he saw several men in ski masks inside a beat-up van snooping around his building before 5 a.m. Friday.

"When they drove by me, two of the males that I could see had ski masks on their faces, and I knew right away that was out of character for Salem," he said.

The man didn't want NBC10 Boston to use his name. He told us he called police right away.

Officers caught up with the three suspects shortly after at a nearby gas station.

"The investigation showed they had two tanks in the back of their modified Chevy van," said Salem Police Capt. Jason Smith. "They were sucking out the yellow grease from restaurants that actually has a value now."

Smith says the men syphoned $1,000 worth of old cooking oil from the trap behind the New Chief Wok restaurant.

"We change the oil twice a week," said new Chief Wok owner Jenny Gao.

She was shocked to learn that there is a black market for her used kitchen grease.

Police say criminals steal it and sell it to companies that use it to make biofuel.

"It's on the rise," Smith said. "The individuals we spoke to said they had to come to New England because everyone in New York City is already stealing grease from the restaurants there."

As for Gao, she's now working on getting a lock for her oil trap and says she's just thankful her neighbor was in the right place at the right time.

"When I was told it was grease, I was like, 'That's new, I never heard that before," said the Border Brewery owner.

There have been similar crimes reported in surrounding towns. Now, police are working to figure out if the same three suspects are responsible.

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