(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Six New York residents are being charged for allegedly stealing used cooking oil from multiple restaurants in Monroe County, NY, and re-selling the stolen oil to an Erie refinery.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York, Guodeng Chen, Didi Huang and Fangfang Yan, all of Pittsford, NY; and Ruimao Yang, Yan Han and Wen Xiao Zhang, all of New York, NY, are being charged with conspiracy and the transportation and sale of stolen goods in interstate commerce.

From a criminal complaint, the defendants allegedly conspired to commit a series of thefts of used cooking oil from numerous restaurants within and around Monroe County. Cooking oil can be refined into biodiesel fuel and re-sold for $4-$5 per gallon.

In April 2022, Monroe Country Sheriffs’ Deputies encountered several of the defendants, in the middle of the night, pumping used cooking oil out of privately-owned holding tanks and into box trucks that contained a large storage tank. 

Deputies then followed the trucks to warehouses in the 300 block of Commerce Drive in Rochester, NY. There, deputies reportedly observed the defendants pumping the oil out of the trucks and into the warehouse.

During the execution of search warrants, deputies discovered 12,461 gallons of unrefined oil, worth over $73,000. They also found documents that revealed the defendants sold and shipped the stolen oil to a refinery located in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Investigators traced two specific shipments — totaling 95,320 gallons of oil — from the defendants’ warehouse in Rochester to the refinery in Erie, PA. The defendants were paid $60,051 for these two shipments.

The defendants made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark W. Pedersen and were released on conditions. The charges against them carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter and Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Scarpino.