GRAPEVINE, Texas - Fuel thefts from gas stations continue to be an ongoing problem in North Texas.
But police in Grapevine did bust two women last week on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.
They said the women first stole about $2,100 worth of diesel fuel from a 7-Eleven and then went back for more.
Grapevine police said fuel thefts, or attempted thefts, have been reported at seven different gas stations since November 2021, when prices were at levels we hadn't seen in years.
The thieves are using a device that tricks the pump into thinking it’s giving out less gas than it is.
So for a few dollars, the thieves can get away with hundreds of gallons of gas. Many of them are getting away undetected.
Police said suspected gas thieves at the 7-Eleven on Grapevine Mills Boulevard were caught in the act on dashcam video on August 11.
Police officers pulled up to the station after getting a tip about a theft in progress.
"They’re accused of taking 460 gallons of fuel that morning in Grapevine," said Amanda McNew, with the Grapevine Police Department. "Someone working for corporate for the 7-Eleven was monitoring all of the stations and noticed a large amount of fuel that was coming out of one of the pumps."
As soon as the officer pulled up, the black Honda sedan on the left took off.
A motorcycle officer pursued the car while the officer on foot inspected the white truck that had been sitting for quite a long time at pump 16.
Two suspects, 28-year-old Annabel Collado Cruz and 47-year-old Lisandro Campana-Fruto, were later questioned in that black sedan.
Police said they confessed to using a device to tamper with the pump.
"The device will trick the company into looking like you’re only spending a few dollars in fuel when really, you’re getting thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel potentially," McNew said.
Police said there was 250-gallon auxiliary tank that was out of sight in the bed of the truck, and this was their second trip to the pump that day, according to police.
It’s the ninth case of its kind in since November at seven different Grapevine gas stations, but the only one that ended in an arrest.
"And we literally have hundreds and hundreds of these same groups operating across the state," said Jeff Roberts, who is lead investigator with the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center, which was created last year to combat organized financial crimes, including fuel theft.
"We’re probably capturing less than a tenth of the actual criminal activity that’s occurring," he added.
What’s the reason for that? He said it’s a combination of gas stations not reporting theft, not wanting to call attention to it, and in some cases, not noticing the theft until much later.
"We are training law enforcement in proactive measures to attack this type of criminal activity and be proactive on it," Roberts said.
Roberts said they started noticing an increase in fuel thefts back in February.
"I mean there’s always going to be an argument that the increased price at the pump is going to drive the black market. Period," he added.
The stolen fuel is often being resold to trucker drivers, fuel yards, or even ride-share services.
Roberts called them brazen criminals, who view jail time as a risk they’re willing to take to make a profit.
"They get arrested, they bond out, on low bond, or no bond and we will capture them on surveillance video stealing fuel sometimes the very next day," he said.
Investigators said if people see someone at the pump for a long time or using the pump in an area that isn’t the gas tank, they should call 911 immediately.