Comptroller’s Criminal Investigation Division Stops Motor Fuel Thieves

AUSTIN, April 7, 2016 - Each year, the Texas Comptroller’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) helps local and state law enforcement return indictments against tax fraud suspects, including more than 100 felony indictments against motor fuel suspects in 2015.

“CID’s work is extremely important, and we want the public to know that we will not tolerate these crimes, which are an affront to Texans who purchase motor fuel legally,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said.

Most recently, CID officers worked with Midland police to stop a rash of motor fuel thefts from convenience stores. In these heists, suspects would park next to underground fuel tanks, lower a fuel hose into the tank and steal fuel with electric pumps and hoses hidden in their vehicles. Such equipment can pump 95 gallons of fuel per minute.

Recent trends in motor fuel theft include:

cloned credit cards: Individuals purchase large quantities of fuel, usually pumped into auxiliary fuel tanks in the back of pickup trucks, using credit/debit cards with stolen credit card numbers re-encoded on the magnetic strip.

pulsar manipulation: Suspects manipulate retail fuel pumps’ pulsars – devices that read fuel usage – so that they can obtain fuel without the retailer knowing the pump is operating. Suspects activate a pump either with a credit card or by giving the cashier a small sum of cash. When the fuel begins flowing, they cause the pulsar to stop sending any information relating to money owed or gallons pumped.

underground fuel storage tanks: Suspects conceal portable tanks inside their vehicles. While parking next to underground fuel tanks, they use pumps and hoses to move stolen fuel into the concealed auxiliary tank.

Texas’ motor fuel taxes represent the fifth-largest source of state tax revenue. In fiscal 2015, motor fuel tax collections totaled $3.3 billion. This revenue supports public education and highways.

Motor fuel tax fraud and theft penalties range from misdemeanors to second-degree felonies, punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

 

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