TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two Florida men are behind bars after they were caught pumping thousands of dollars worth of “liquid gold” from a local restaurant early Thursday morning, according to authorities.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said Rui Gen Lin, 48, of St Johns, and Rong Chen, 41, of Gainesville, were caught in the act of pumping used cooking oil, also known as “liquid gold,” from a local restaurant in Palm Coast.

A deputy sheriff performing a business check at Woody’s Bar-B-Que around 3:15 a.m. spotted the duo wearing headlamps as they pumped thousands of gallons of used cooking oil from behind the restaurant into a white box truck.

When deputies took a look inside the truck, they found bolt cutters, a pry bar, a pump, and several “large storage containers” containing more than 7,000 pounds of used cooking oil valued at around $5,000.

Deputies said Lin owned and operated a Jacksonville-based recycling company, L & L Recycling, LLC, but was not contracted by the business owner to take away the used cooking oil.

“They own a company that buys and recycles old cooking oil but, in this case, they tried to increase their profits by stealing the oil,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Used cooking oil is often recycled to make diesel fuel and used in other products.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the value of cooking oil has risen 80% in the last year to 66 cents a pound. The sharp increase in value has incentivized thieves to steal the commodity and flip it for thousands of dollars.

“This kind of crime is why we conduct business checks on closed businesses,” Sheriff Staly added. “With the price of oil rising, the theft of used cooking oil is increasing across the country. This was a great job by Deputy Kyle Gaddie for seeing something suspicious while on patrol and stopping to check it out. These two grease-bags made the mistake of coming to Flagler County and were taken to the Green Roof Inn!”

Local restaurants missing used cooking oil are urged to call authorities at 386-313-4911 to file a report as detectives continue the investigation.

Lin and Chen were hauled away in handcuffs and held on $5,500 bond at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility.

“This is the first time Lin or Chen have been arrested in Flagler County,” the sheriff’s office said in a release. “Each are held at the Green Roof Inn on two felony counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure and possession of burglary tools with intent along with misdemeanor petit theft.”

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