Skip to main content
Press Release

Mexican Man Sentenced for Interstate Transportation of Stolen Cooking Oil and Money Laundering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. – Alvaro Mendez-Flores, age 39,  of Mexico, was sentenced today to 41 months imprisonment and over $4,000,000 in restitution, for conspiring to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and money laundering.

According to court records, Mendez-Flores and his co-conspirators stole vast amounts of used cooking oil from numerous restaurants, arranged for the stolen oil to be transported to the northeast, and laundered the proceeds.

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment, used cooking oil, historically viewed as a waste product, has become a valuable recycled commodity over the past decade. The majority of the recycled cooking oil sold is used for biofuel, fluctuating with market demand. It can also be used as a nutritional additive to animal feed and pet food, or in the production of many consumer and industrial products.

Legitimate businesses, known as renderers, collect used cooking oil from restaurants in exchange of compensation and sell it to refineries so that it can be processed and recycled. The rendering industry estimates that there is an annual loss of approximately $45-75 million dollars from the theft of used cooking oil.

United States Attorney Higdon emphasized, “These crimes rob hardworking citizens and restaurant owners of valuable income necessary to their livelihood and it will not be tolerated.”  

“Used cooking oil has become a sought-after commodity by biodiesel companies, and restaurants use the sale of this oil as another source of revenue,” said Ronnie A. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Charlotte, North Carolina. “This organized group of co-conspirators had an elaborate scheme to steal thousands of gallons of cooking oil for their own profit in violation of several U.S. laws.”

Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge James C. Dever III. 

The case was investigated by HSI. 

A copy of this press release is located on our website. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:19-cr-00220-D-21.

Updated May 21, 2020

Financial Fraud