A gas theft ring in Florida has stolen at least $60,000 worth of fuel from gas stations to resell at half price, sheriff says

Six men accused of stealing thousands of dollars of gasoline from Florida gas stations have been arrested, officials said Monday.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said “Operation Empty Tank” came to an end last week when Luis Alcade-Hernandez, Albert Aleman-Gonzalez, Nestor Flores-Rodriguez, Javier Penate-Berbe, Jesus Andres Perez-Cueto and Danys Vazquez-Sosa were arrested. Their ringleader, Willian Penate-Arencibia, is still at large, Chronister said.

“Operation Empty Tank” began in February when two K County gas stations found over the course of two days that they were running out of $25,000 in fuel, according to a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

“After checking surveillance cameras, each gas station observed the same strange behavior, with a group of seven trucks driving through a single gas pump at each station continuously for more than 12 hours,” the statement said.

Detectives found that the suspects broke into gas pumps and installed home-made devices that overrode the mechanism used to calculate the cost per gallon.

“Seven suspects were able to sell thousands of dollars in gas for pennies a gallon or, in some cases, no money at all,” the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators determined that the suspects were stealing gasoline from gas stations throughout Tampa Bay.

“Although we have identified just over $60,000 in gas theft in seven documented incidents, we believe these men are responsible for far more money in theft since their operation runs nearly every day of the week,” Chronister said. “This was clearly an organized crime ring and these suspects were not new to the business.”

The suspects sold the gas to truckers at half price, according to the sheriff’s office.

But Chronister said the men were not doing the truckers any public service.

“Don’t believe for a minute that these suspects tampered with the pumps to lighten the load on everyday drivers,” Chronister said. “No. They were just there to line their own pockets.”

The six men were arrested after detectives caught them stealing gasoline. They are charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering-influenced and corrupt organizations, grand larceny and unauthorized access to electronics, according to the sheriff’s office. You could also expect additional fees. A gas theft ring in Florida has stolen at least $60,000 worth of fuel from gas stations to resell at half price, sheriff says

Caroline Bleakley

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