WBAL reported yesterday that three men have been charged "in connection with a used cooking oil scheme that cost a Baltimore company an estimated $1 million." One of the charged men, Richard Figueroa of Hunt Valley, should’ve known he was in the spotlight for suspicions he was stealing the stuff: last fall, the fact that he’d been implicated, though not charged, in a federal waste-oil-theft conspiracy was part of lengthy City Paper feature story, which included a brief interview with Figueroa.
Here’s the relevant passage:
"'Actually, I don't do the biodiesel,' says Richard Arturo Figueroa of Hunt Valley. He's talking on his cellphone while driving, and there's a lot of loud noise in the background, like what a big truck might make, but he understands he's talking to a City Paper reporter. 'I just collect the waste vegetable oil, that's all we do. We pick it up from restaurants and have a facility where we process it.'
"Is that the place in Middle River? 'Not anymore, that's somebody else.' Then, only about a minute into the conversation, he explains that he's approaching a toll booth and really should get off the phone, and maybe call back in an hour.
"Figueroa seems not to know that he and his business—Rafxcel Services—are in the middle of a federal grease-theft investigation in Maryland that has resulted in charges and a guilty plea from Ahmad Qaabid Abdul-Rahim, the 37-year-old owner of a College Park grease-collection company called Waste Not Inc. If Figueroa does know he's squarely in the middle of this ongoing probe, he's being mighty coy about it.
"According to Rahim's plea agreement, Waste Not in 2011 had 650 legitimate contracts to collect waste vegetable oil (WVO) from restaurants, but Rahim also stole grease–and 'would take both his legitimate WVO and the stolen WVO to R.F.'s collection facility' at 1701 Leland Ave. in Middle River. Once at the facility, the WVO 'would be sold to a fuel company located in Pennsylvania, among others,' the plea agreement states, and 'the Pennsylvania fuel company would send trucks to' the Middle River warehouse, 'load the WVO, and transport it back to the fuel company's location in Pennsylvania.'
"Money from the sales went into bank accounts held by Figueroa's company, Rafxcel Services–and generated a ton of revenue: $1,575,982 between Jan. 18, 2012 and Sept. 20, 2012, according to Rahim's plea agreement, which says that Waste Not's take from this arrangement was $361,356 for 180,678 gallons of WVO–an even $2 per gallon.
"But here's the rub: Rahim sold the stolen WVO at a marked-down price of $1.05 per gallon, according to the plea agreement, which means his legitimate WVO-86,500 gallons of it-sold for $3.03 per gallon.
"Thus, Rafxcel Services paid about two-thirds less for stolen grease than for legitimate grease. …
"A call back to Figueroa at the appointed time, an hour after he talked on his phone while driving, went to voicemail. He never returned the call. A quick Google search turns up the likely location of the new facility he referred to in the earlier call: Rafxcel Services is now at 8213 Rosebank Ave. in Dundalk, on the banks of Back River."
Despite the publicity of his alleged involvement in a federally charged conspiracy, Figueroa apparently kept on dealing in illegitimate waste oil, given the charges filed in Harford County. His partner in Rafxcel, Anthony Jean Claude, meanwhile, earlier this year pleaded guilty to federal money-laundering charges in connection with the scheme, is now serving 18 months in prison, and is beset with a $1,586,747 restitution order that he'll likely be trying to repay for years to come.