Five people were arrested this week following an investigation by the Fl. Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—an investigation that spanned two years. All five are charged with organized fraud and the illegal acquisition of diesel fuel, or theft.
According to the Florida Times-Union, the group is accused of using fraudulent credit cards to obtain large amounts of diesel fuel. They then stored the fuel and resold it to truck drivers at a discounted rate. Thirty Hess stations were involved, both in Florida and Southeast Georgia.
The group was able to steal large amounts of fuel at every stop because the truck they were using allegedly contained illegal fuel tanks in the bed.
While this story is a bit of an extreme example, it does show that fuel theft can be a serious crime with serious repercussions. If you are accused of filling up on gas and driving away without payment, you could face charges. Even though most urban gas stations require you to pay up front these days, the same isn’t true everywhere.
In most cases, stealing gas is considered “petty theft” simply because of the value. Petty theft can result in up to 6 months in jail and $500 in fines. However, if this isn’t your first theft offense, the charge could be more serious.
Under Florida law, if you are charged with theft on more than two occasions, you can automatically face 3rd degree felony charges. A 3rd degree felony carries a potential 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. It doesn’t matter if you were caught shoplifting or stealing gas—this applies to all theft charges.
The seriousness of your theft charge is directly tied to the value of the goods or services you are accused of taking. Obviously a $2,000 watch will carry a harsher sentence than a $20 tank of gas. Similarly, if you take something valued at more than $100,000, you can face 1st degree grand theft charges, which carry a potential 30 years in prison.
When you are up against theft charges, whether they are “petty theft” or “grand theft”, you need the assistance of an aggressive defense attorney. Contact me today to discuss the details of your case and to receive a free consultation.