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Black Market Fuel Siphons Off Millions

 

The black market for diesel and gasoline has blossomed across the United States as organized crime gangs “buy” fuel with stolen credit cards from gasoline stations or divert fuel into large tanks tucked inside vans and pickup trucks, the Herald and News/Associated Press reports.

Stealing fuel is seen as having less risk than drugs, and those participating in the illegal sales can easily rake in $1,000 or more per day re-selling the fuel to truckers and construction sites. “It’s pretty rampant,” said Owen DeWitt of Know Control, which helps retailers stop fuel theft. “California and Florida are the two worst; Texas is No. 3.”

DeWitt pointed to 2006 as when skimmers and black market diesel both became more widespread. Fuel theft has become more organized and larger, catching the attention of federal and state officials all over the United States. “The crews that we’ve investigated over the past couple of years—the least profitable group is $5 million a year. And then there are groups that will gross $20 million plus,” said U.S. Secret Service Agent Steve Scarince.

Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami are fuel theft hot spots—altogether registering around 20 million gallons per year in siphoned diesel. “The gang-bangers in Los Angeles have been migrating to financial crimes instead of street crimes because it’s much more profitable and if you get caught, you get probation,” he said.

“Theft has been involved with fuel for as long as retailers have been selling fuel,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at NACS, but today’s criminals are “trying to steal hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons.”

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