HANOVER, TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Wilkes-Barre Police Department and Hanover Township Police have charged two people in connection with the theft of cooking oil from a Hanover Township fast food restaurant.
Police on the scene said it started Thursday morning at the Burger King on Carey Avenue and ended with two people being taken into custody in Wilkes-Barre.
The two suspects, both from New York, have been identified as Fida Altaweel, 27 of Yonkers and Jansel Lopez, 25 of Mount Vernon.
Eyewitness News was on the scene as police took the pair into custody in the South Main Plaza, in Wilkes-Barre.
Police say sometime early Thursday morning a white van was seen backing up to the cooking oil tank near the Burger King. The store manager called 911, but the two took off before the police arrived.
A “be on the lookout” was sent out around 9:00 a.m. Wilkes-Barre Police saw a van matching the description on South Main Street.
Eyewitness News was told the man and the woman were inside a bakery at the time when police converged on the scene. Eyewitness News spoke with one of the owners of the bakery who saw the drama unfold.
“I’m working, two people come in order a sandwich then we turned our eyes the whole place was full of cops. I didn’t know what was going on. I was like did they kill somebody did they rob somebody I didn’t know,” Jennifer Ramirez, a worker at Amigon’s Bakery.
Police say Lopez and Altaweel stole about 400 gallons of used cooking oil valued at around $1,800 dollars. The question is why is used cooking oil such a hot commodity? Why is it being stolen? Investigators say it can be sold for use as fuel a 100 gallons can be sold for anywhere from $35 to $50 dollars.
The Luzerne County District Attorney’s office is referring these cases to the state Attorney General’s Office classifying it as an organized crime operation.
Altaweel and Lopez are charged with theft, receiving stolen property and criminal trespassing. The two are being held at Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.