Clerks fuming over gas theft

Fuel heist nets almost $400

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A motorist driving a maroon pickup reportedly stole almost $400 in gas from a Craig convenience store, Craig police said.

The heist is one of the largest gas drive-offs in the city's history, police said.

A clerk said a man filled up a truck, two snowmobiles and a large tank in the bed of the truck with nearly 125 gallons of premium unleaded gas -- valued at $399.72 -- early Tuesday at the Kum & Go on Yampa Avenue.

Premium unleaded sells for $3.19 a gallon at the store, and regular unleaded gas is $2.99 a gallon.

"(The theft) was probably very planned," the store's manager, Laurie Foster, said. "They were probably checking us out and know that we have less lighting and fewer employees than other stores."

Foster said the pickup pulled into the station at 4:30 a.m. and parked at the pumps farthest from the store's windows.

Only one cashier works the night shift, but early morning is the station's busiest time, because oil workers fuel up vehicles and buy snacks.

Foster said that on Tuesday morning, a line of customers stretched to the back of the store. A longtime cashier of eight years was switching back and forth from computers to handle the load, Foster said.

After the cashier noticed the vehicle leaving without paying, she ran outside to chase the vehicle as it headed south on Yampa Avenue back into town, Foster said. The cashier immediately called police.

Foster said the cashier could not see the license plate on the truck because the snowmobile trailer hindered its view. The truck also was covered in dirt, which made it difficult to make out the license plate. The front of the vehicle did not have a license plate. Foster said the vehicle looked like an older model pickup, possibly from the 1990s.

"She is just sick over this," Foster said about the cashier and the incident.

Police have not identified a suspect or suspects in the case, but they may have a few leads, said Capt. Jerry DeLong with the Craig Police Department.

"This is biggest skip I can remember," DeLong said.

DeLong said an average of two stolen gas cases are reported each month. If caught, suspects could be charged with a misdemeanor theft charge that includes a $250 mandatory fine plus restitution, if they are found guilty.

DeLong said gas station attendants can help police locate suspects by taking down license plate numbers and offering police detailed descriptions of suspects and their vehicles.

Foster said that because of the heist, the store might begin requiring people to prepay for fuel.

Foster said she and other cashiers keep their eyes peeled for suspicious behavior, such as when people fuel up while being blocked from view by large vehicles.

And Foster said she sometimes stands in the parking lot to check that customers walk into the store to pay for their gas.

"I shouldn't have to do that, but I do," she said. "We're definitely going to be educating our employees. I hate to blame them."

In May, Moffat County officials re----ported missing 156 gallons of gas from one of the county's holding tanks near Hamilton. At that time, the price of gas hovered at about $2.49 a gallon.

County officials never determined whether that gas was stolen at once or during a period of time, and police never located a suspect or suspects in that case.

Lt. John Forgay of the Craig Police Department said Tuesday's heist unfortunately might be a harbinger of crimes to come, considering rising fuel prices.

"I'm sure we're going to see more of these."

Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 208, or ahamilton@craigdailypress.com

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