LANCASTER – A 43-year-old man in a pickup truck that was rigged to steal fuel from other vehicles was caught in the act and arrested early Friday morning, authorities said.
Danny Hales of Quartz Hill was arrested around 12:52 a.m. for grand theft and fuel tampering, according to Palmdale Sheriff’s Lieutenant Cory Kennedy.
Kennedy said Hales was busted after he parked his pickup truck suspiciously close to a Time Warner Cable van in the 400 Block of Palmdale Boulevard. The van’s driver contacted the Palmdale Station shortly before midnight, Kennedy said.
“We believe he interrupted him before he was actually able to accomplish the theft,” Kennedy said. “We got there quick, so that he didn’t have a chance to get away.”
Deputies responding to the parking lot saw a large amount of gasoline on the ground and Hales sitting in the cab of a truck equipped to steal gasoline, Kennedy said.
“Knowing that we’ve had gas theft in the past, and even in that area, they detained him,” Kennedy said.
The truck was modified with a large, unattached, auxiliary fuel tank in the bed that was full of fuel. There was a hose and some electrical wires which led to the cab, and an electrical pump with an additional fuel line, Kennedy said. There also appeared to be at least 30 feet of hose attached, which fed back to the tank in the bed.
The truck appeared to be rigged to illegally siphon fuel from other vehicles and pump it through the cab directly into the extra fuel tank, Kennedy said.
Over the past year, Palmdale Station has investigated numerous reports of fuel theft, with thieves making off with thousands of dollar in stolen fuel, Kennedy said.
“We believe that he may be involved with a lot of gas theft over the last year,” Kennedy said, adding that investigators were pulling all the reports of gas theft in order to connect them to Hales.
Kennedy said the majority of fuel theft cases involve large commercial vehicles, but the thieves also target rental cars.
“There was one incident we had where they were actually punching holes in these rental cars and taking their fuel,” he said.
Deputies have been warning companies not to leave their fully-fueled vehicles parked in public places overnight. Resident should also try to park in well-lit areas or invest in locking gas caps to prevent thieves from stealing fuel from their vehicles, Kennedy said.
“With the price of gas the way it is right now, the odds are we’re going to see more of that,” he added.
Hales was released on bail hours after his arrest, and is due in court on Oct. 23 to answer charges.