2 men guilty in gas scam
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Jul 19, 2013, 13:19
PRINCE GEORGE — Two Florida truck drivers were found guilty Wednesday of breaking into gas pumps and stealing hundreds of gallons of gasoline at the US Gas Station on Crater Road in Prince George County.
Osmin Hernandez Exposito, 44, and Miguel Vasquez Echemendia, 44, were convicted of four felonies, two counts of grand larceny and two counts of tampering with gas pumps, after pleading not guilty to a combined total of more than 30 charges. Both defendants waived the right to trial by jury.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Livingston theorized in his closing statement that both men were involved in a diesel theft scam that incorporated the use of a pulser device allowing for them to tamper with the pump meter and empty hundreds of gallons into their trucks while only registering 20-40 gallons.
Jim Campbell, with Baird Petroleum, testified that it only takes around 10 to 15 seconds to install the pulser at the US Gas Station with a screwdriver and that if the reader on the device is altered every 30 seconds, one can pump any amount of gas they want without getting charged for it.
The men were apprehended at the US Gas Station on Sept. 15, 2012, after the Prince George police received a call from the gas station reporting that there was suspicious activity in regards to the two men’s tractor trailers, according to Prince George police officer Anthony Townsend’s testimony.
Townsend said that both tractor trailers were parked around the same pump, and that when he arrived at the scene he noticed there was fuel pouring on the ground from one of the trucks and that the tanks of the other truck were full to the brim.
Authorities found a drill lying on the floor of Exposito’s truck along with screws that matched those found in the gas pumps, as well as a pulser that matched one also found inside the gas pump, according to detective Robert Carmichael’s testimony.
Authorities linked the license plates of the trucks registered to Exposito and Enchemendia to trucks seen in a US Gas surveillance video from another instance of diesel theft on Sept. 9, 2012, Townsend testified.
Both men, tractor trailer drivers from Florida, were charged for a slew of gasoline thefts from US Gas over the course of four months in 2012, from June to September.
The owner of the US Gas Station testified that gas shortages were first noticed in June and that police were alerted on Sept. 10, 2012, to investigate. She said that US Gas has a tank reading monitor that helps determine when gas shortages occur, and that the station has never experienced shortages before like the ones reported between June and September of 2012.
Livingston claimed that although there is only video and photo evidence for two thefts in September, there are receipts for gas purchases from credit cards with the names of the defendants that specifically coincide with each major gas shortage reported by US Gas, and he urged “the court to see the similarities in conduct.”
Judge Sam Campbell ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to convict the defendants for any charges prior to September 9 of last year.
Esposito and Echemendia will remain in jail until their sentencing Sept. 17.