By Tom Regan
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A Lilburn gas station clerk, who became suspicious over a customer who was pumping more fuel than his vehicle was designed to hold, sparked a undercover investigation, six arrests, and links to a fuel theft scheme that has raked into millions to criminal organizations nationwide.
Nicknamed “Pump and Dump,” the scheme involves placing hidden fuel tanks into cars, trucks and SUVs, and using stolen credit
card to purchase large quantities of fuel which is sold at cut rate prices on the street.
“They would construct aftermarket tanks to put inside these vehicles. As they pulled up to a pump, it looked like any other person swiping a credit card and pumping fuel. Except they weren’t pumping it into the tank that was designed by the manufacturer of the vehicle.” said Lilburn police Captain Thomas Bardugon.
Bardugon showed Channel 2 Action News nearly a dozen cars, trucks, semis and other vehicle that were used in the criminal scheme, which was cracked last month. Some of the hidden tanks hold over a hundred gallons of fuel.
“These vehicles were equipped with a battery operated pump system. They would go off site. They would sell the fuel to another driver somewhere, pump it straight from the their vehicle or pump it out later,” said Bardugon.
The thieves created credit card using stolen personal information.
“And based on that information they were able to create fake credit cards. They actually had machines they would swipe the cards through and embed the credit card information on it,” said Bardugon.
Police arrested a half-dozen Cuban immigrants, and also seized $15,000 cash, and nearly 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel. They believe that the thieves sold a hundred times that amount before they were arrested late last month. Those who purchased the stolen fuel may also face charges.
“People who are buying fuel for $1 or less a gallon, went it’s selling for $3 a gallon, they should have known it was stolen, especially when nit comes out of the back of someone’s car or truck,” said Bardugon.
The U.S. Secret Service assisted in the investigation. Similar investigations and arrests have occurred in other cities.