Published: Apr 06, 2011 10:45 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 06, 2011 7:45 PM EDT

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.- Charlotte County Sheriff’s detectives arrested two men caught in the act of stealing cooking oil from several Port Charlotte restaurants early Wednesday.

CCSO received a call at 5:46 a.m. from Augustin Johnson, a subcontractor of Griffin Industries, the firm that collects cooking oil from area restaurants he contracts with. Johnson reported he was following a tanker truck believed to be involved in stealing from his clients.

There have been numerous thefts of cooking oil in the past few months in the Charlotte County area.

The business owner was patrolling Port Charlotte hoping to catch the cooking oil thieves; he was successful. He followed the tank truck and gave reports to Communications; the truck backed up to the rear of TGI Friday’s, 18600 Veterans Blvd.

When deputies arrived they questioned two Hispanic men with the truck. They were identified as Jose De Jesus-Avila, 45, of Miami, and Yamil De Jesus-Gonzalez, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A locked gate to the fenced in area behind TGI Friday’s had been cut and the two men were in possession of bolt cutters.

The International tank sump truck capable of holding 2,500 gallons, was towed to the CCSO impound lot. Deputies and detectives also discovered that Beef O’Brady’s, La Esperanz Mexican Restaurant and Moe’s Southwest Grill were also targets of the cooking oil thieves.

Value of the stolen oil from all four restaurants is set at nearly $4,000. A representative for Griffin Industries who has the contract with the restaurants said cooking oil is valued at $3.90 a gallon which is reprocessed.

Both men were transported to the Charlotte County Jail and each was charged with four felony counts of Grand Theft and one count of Burglary. There may have been other area restaurants involved in the theft; detectives continue their investigation.