Sheriff calls for suspending after-hours gas pumps in response to fuel thefts

Published 7:17 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

Vernon Parish Sheriff Sam Craft is asking local convenience stores to shut down pay-at-the-pump options after hours following a rash of fuel thefts across the area.

Last week, two Texas residents were arrested outside of Leesville for electronically stealing credit and debit card information from local gas pumps and then “recoding” blank gift cards with that bank information to pump hundreds of dollars worth of fuel.

Following those arrests, Craft said his department is now investigating multiple other incidents involving the same method, and he is asking convenience store employees to be vigilant as detectives work to arrest those responsible.

Craft said the incidents are occurring at gas stations in “outlaying” areas of the parish, and involve significant amounts of fuel. In one incident, he said a convenience store suffered a loss of $4,741.24 in diesel over a span of three nights.

“In this instance, the suspects arrived at the store after normal business hours and utilized the cards to pay at the pump and obtain approximately 470 gallons of fuel,” Craft said.

For that reason, Craft said he is “strongly recommending” convenience stores in the at-risk areas shut down all pumps at the close of business each day in an effort to prevent such thefts.

“Pay at the pump should be available only if a clerk is on duty to monitor those fuel sales,” Craft said.

In the arrests that occurred last week, detectives were alerted by gas station clerks who became suspicious when the suspect spent more than 30 minutes at a single pump and used several different cards for a single transaction.

Craft praised the vigilance of those clerks, and encouraged others to report similar suspicious activity to VPSO by calling 337-238-1311.

Authorities in nearby Beauregard Parish said they also experienced similar thefts at gas station pumps last year, but so far have not seen the activity locally at this time.