Reporting Chris Martinez
CHICAGO (CBS) – Police said Monday they’re following several leads in their search for a second suspect in an elaborate gasoline theft scheme.
Riverside police began investigating after 35-year-old Darius Williams was spotted fleeing a local gas station with a gas pump nozzle and part of the hose dangling from his SUV on Jan. 20.
Authorities said Williams and another man, who they know only as “Mike the gas man,” were able to strike so quickly, police can’t be sure how often they’ve hit.
Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said he suspects the pair has been stealing fuel from gas stations since early December.
Williams allegedly confessed to working as part of a two-man team to remove the housing on gas pumps, and disabling the mechanism that measures how much gasoline has been delivered.
They would then fill five-gallon jugs with gas, and sell it out of their cars in Chicago, for about $2 per gallon.
“He said it would normally take them under four minutes,” Weitzel said. “They would go in, disable it, next car would pull in, fill up that car, fill up the bottles and be out.”
Their scheme was derailed when a North Riverside police officer spotted the pair at work at a 7-Eleven at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue in Riverside, prompting Williams to drive off before they were done – tearing the nozzle off the pump.
“He just hopped in the driver’s seat, put it in gear, and drove off with the nozzle still in the vehicle,” Weitzel said.
Police later found Williams’ vehicle, with the nozzle still sticking out of the SUV, and 11 five-gallon containers that Williams allegedly intended to fill with gasoline.
Authorities have been unable to find his accomplice, who Williams identified only as “Mike the gas man.” Williams allegedly said his accomplice was the mastermind of the scheme.
Williams was arrested Friday outside the Bridgeview Courthouse, after appearing in court for a similar gasoline theft charge from Evergreen Park.
He allegedly admitted to the Riverside theft, and was charged with misdemeanor gasoline theft.
“I haven’t really seen siphoning on this level,” Weitzel said.
Police said at least three other gas stations have come forward, saying they were victims of the same scheme.