Talk about a gas guzzler… Police seized a truck and trailer equipped with a trap door that was used at least three times to siphon thousands of gallons of BP diesel fuel from underground storage tanks at a Tic Toc Food Mart in Mercer County.
“You got to have a little respect for this,” Hermitage police Deputy Chief Edward Holiga said Wednesday. “It’s a very ingenious way of doing things, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Just ingenious.”
After the most recent theft April 28, the police department asked local television stations to broadcast a photo of the truck, which was captured by the gas station’s surveillance cameras.
A tip Tuesday night led investigators to the rig on the property of a man who owns an asphalt and trucking company in North Bloomfield, Ohio. Police obtained a search warrant yesterday and discovered a 5,000-gallon tank containing about 500 gallons of diesel fuel.
No one was charged, Holiga said.
Police suspect the thief parked the vehicle over storage tanks, opened a trap door veiled by rubber flaps that hang to the ground and began sucking out the fuel with a make-shift tank hidden in the trailer. The vacuum was powered by the truck’s engine, which masked the sound of the operation.
The fueling station lost nearly $5,000 in three thefts.
It likely wasn’t a one-person job. Police said one person would sit at the driver’s seat as a decoy so that one or more other thieves could tap into the underground containers.
Inside the trailer, police found a decrepit 15-foot propane cylinder behind a wall of hay and a wooden partition. The tank was empty, police said, but reeked of diesel fuel. Strewn about the compartment were hoses about two inches in diameter.
Up and down eastern Ohio, similar heists have occurred at stations, Holiga said, and police said they’re investigating whether the crimes are linked.
Tic Toc spokeswoman Diann Moore said gas theft is especially painful as fuel prices continue to hit historic highs.
“We sell BP gas, but we’re another small business trying to get by,” she said. “We’re not the big boys. And right now there is no profit in selling fuel.”
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