Posted: 8:50 p.m. Monday, March 19, 2012

Thieves tampering with pumps to steal gas

By Carl Willis

DECATUR, Ga. —

Thieves are tampering with fuel pumps and stealing thousands of dollars worth of gas in DeKalb County.

That's according to a gas station owner in Decatur who said one thief stole hundreds of gallons in a single visit.

As fuel prices skyrocket, the station owner said thieves are getting more creative.

There haven't been many gas drive-offs at his station.

Instead he's seen slow, deliberate and plotted out theft even as his surveillance cameras record.

"I'm trying to make it a little safer," he said. "I'm trying all the tricks in the book."

Channel 2's Carl Willis met the owner while pumping gas over the weekend and saw him making repairs to his pump cabinet.

He didn't want to be identified or give his location out of fear of more thefts, but said someone is prying open older-model fuel pumps with simple tools and rigging the system.

"Just a screwdriver," he said.

Once inside of the pump, he said the thief damages or removes a cog wheel that allows the gas to flow regularly while the meter that indicates how much you pay slows to a crawl.

He said that allows thieves to steal bulk amounts of gas and everyone who comes after to only pay pennies on the dollar.

"For every person that's pumping gas they're getting twice or thrice the amount of gas," he said. "For $5 they're getting $20 to $25 worth of gas."

One bold thief pulled up to the gas station in a large van, blocking surveillance cameras.

The owner said it appeared that he was just taking his time and talking on his cellphone.

Unknown to the owner, the man was filling his tank and containers inside the van with stolen gas.

"(He) has taken 400 gallons of gas at one time in half an hour," he said.

The station owner said he lost more than $12,000 in one day at one of his locations, and about more than $4,200 at another location just last week.

Those rigging the system are targeting older pump cabinets that some station owners have not been able to upgrade.

This victim has installed metal braces to secure his pumps, but said the crime is spreading.

Adding to the problem, station owners typically don't figure out what's happened until the end of the week when they look at the accounting books and realize that the inventory doesn't add up.

"The money is going to come up short and they're going to think some of the employees stole it, maybe somebody took away with something," he said. "This isn't that easy to catch."

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