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There were two alleged fuel thefts in Maryland in one day. How common is the crime?

A Baltimore County Fire Department official walks by a van in White Marsh being investigated for allegedly stolen fuel.
A Baltimore County Fire Department official walks by a van in White Marsh being investigated for allegedly stolen fuel. (Phil Davis)

A case of alleged fuel theft brought downtown Baltimore to a standstill after a van with bins of gasoline in a parking garage led authorities to evacuate several buildings near the Inner Harbor on Monday afternoon.

A few hours later in Baltimore County, around 6:30 p.m., authorities were investigating a van at a Royal Farms in White Marsh with about 660 gallons of gasoline in the back.

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So how often do people steal gasoline in Maryland?

Susan O’Brien, a spokeswoman for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, said investigators in the Field Enforcement Division, which investigates the crime, have made one such bust for illegally selling fuel this year.

In February, agents cited a 42-year-old Pennsylvania man for trying to sell motor fuel from a delivery truck in Western Maryland without a license and registration. “Our FED agents are on the job round-the-clock to catch tax cheats who don’t want to play by the rules like hard-working Maryland businesses and families do,” Franchot said in a statement at the time.

The Associated Press reported in 2017 that Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are hot spots for the crime, together accounting for about 20 million gallons a year in stolen diesel.

As for Monday’s incidents, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment said about 80 gallons of diesel fuel were offloaded from the van parked at the T. Rowe Price Group garage in Baltimore City. Around noon, Baltimore Fire Chief Roman Clark said during a news conference the van “has approximately 1,000 gallons of gasoline.” No suspect has been arrested, police say.

In White Marsh, Baltimore County Fire Capt. Joseph Woynovitz Jr. said police were called to the Royal Farms on Pulaski Highway near the intersection of Ebenezer Road for a report of a suspicious person.

A man had spent a long time outside the vehicle seemingly pumping gas, Woynovitz said, and when police arrived, they found several large containers of gasoline in the back of the van.

Woynovitz said the driver was involved in a scheme to steal gas by using stolen credit card numbers to purchase gift cards from places like Royal Farms and then to use those gift cards to purchase fuel to sell later.

He added that while the 660 gallons found in the back of the van were not believed to be connected to the van in Baltimore City, he could not help but escape the glaring similarities.

“It’s the exact same thing,” Woynovitz said.

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