A county officer investigating a report of suspicious activity at a Royal Farms stopped the driver of a van who drove off when approached, police said. The man was taken into custody and an investigation showed he had used gift cards to purchase large quantities of diesel fuel, police said.
The diesel was stored in tanks in the back of the van — like those in the van discovered earlier in the day in Baltimore. The Maryland Department of the Environment arrived and took possession of the diesel fuel, estimating that it was about 660 gallons, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
“We are investigating the possibility that our incident is connected to the Baltimore City incident,” Peach said.
The White Marsh incident came hours after officials in downtown Baltimore evacuated several buildings, cordoned off city blocks and closed major roadways for much of the workday after the discovery of a suspicious van filled with what police say was stolen fuel.
The white van parked in the garage of the T. Rowe Price Group building at 100 E. Pratt St. with two large tanks hidden in back behind tinted windows. City officials initially reported it had 1,000 gallons of fuel, but after police determined there wasn’t a bomb on board and it was towed out of the garage, only about 80 gallons of diesel fuel were removed from it.
Another incident Tuesday partially shut down Interstate 695 when a “suspicious rental truck” was stopped by police officers in Towson. Peach said there was no evidence of any connection between the Towson incident and the fuel-related arrest.
“You have a box truck, and I think all the officers, knowing what happened yesterday in the city and the county, are very much on the lookout for anything similar, or anything that has a similar type of suspicious nature,” Peach said.
Police said later Tuesday afternoon that the box truck was stopped initially because the driver was speeding, but then ran out of gas on I-695. Police said there was nothing found in the truck, and the driver was arrested for fleeing police.
In White Marsh Monday, county police were dispatched around 3:30 p.m. to the Royal Farms gas station at the intersection of Pulaski Highway and Ebenezer Road after a call for suspicious activity that indicated the driver of a white van was filling two large tanks inside its cargo area with diesel fuel.
After an officer approached the van, the driver drove off and police pursued, stopping the vehicle, Peach said. When the officer asked to see the man’s driver’s license, the officer discovered an “arrestable traffic offense” and arrested the man. Peach said she could not yet specify what the offense was because the man has not been charged.
During a further search of the van, after the man had been taken into custody, police discovered 68 Royal Farms gift cards, 15 receipts and one credit card. Some of the gift cards were “re-coded,” Peach said, and fraudulent.
“How they came to be fraudulent is under investigation,” she said.
The man said he was given the cards by the van’s Virginia owner, who asked him to fill the fuel tanks using the gift cards. The owner of the van told police he rented the van to the driver with no fuel tanks inside and denied knowing anything about the gift cards, police said.
Peach said the man remains in police custody while he awaits formal charges, which she said likely will include the traffic offense and “some kind of an economic crime" related to either the possession of fraudulent cards or making purchases with fraudulent cards.
“There is a great deal more investigation that needs to be done with this case,” Peach said. "That said, I think you can expect that once this case goes before the state’s attorney’s office, you could probably expect additional charges.”