Police charge men with stealing, dumping cooking oil

NAUGATUCK — Two New York men are facing charges after police say they stole used cooking oil and then dumped some in the area of a pond off Rubber Avenue.

Police arrested Chang Mei Zou, 30, and Yu Xiang Zheng, 24, on warrants Tuesday, after an investigation that started when a resident spotted men dumping oil from a commercial truck behind the plaza at 444 Rubber Ave.

Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said the incident was reported at about 10 a.m. Aug. 16. By the time officers arrived, he said, the truck was gone, but the truck left behind an oil trail.

McAllister said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and local officials responded and determined it was cooking oil that was dumped. Officials mitigated the oil and there was minimal environmental impact, he said.

Officers used photographs taken by witnesses to identify the truck, which is registered to an oil recycling company in New Britain, McAllister said. Police then worked backward to determine Zou and Zheng, who were working for the company, were the men in the truck at the time.

The company hasn’t been implicated in the incident.

McAllister said the men talked with police and claimed to have had an issue with the storage of the oil, before dumping some.

Police say the men stole about $200 worth of used cooking oil from an oil repository behind the stores in the plaza at 727 Rubber Ave. and tried to dump some because it was leaking. The repository is owned by a Massachusetts company, McAllister said.

McAllister said the men have no affiliation with any of the businesses in the plaza at 444 Rubber Ave. and happened to pull into the plaza by coincidence.

The theft of used cooking oil is becoming more common as thieves are taking the grease to sell to be used for biodiesel. McAllister said there hasn’t been a rash of such thefts reported in Naugatuck, but there has been an uptick in the area.

Police charged Zou and Zheng both with sixth-degree larceny, conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny, knowingly violating the water pollution control act and littering violation. Police also seized and impounded the commercial truck.

Zou and Zheng were released on a promise to appear. They are scheduled to appear in at Waterbury Superior Court Sept 4.