A Fort Worth man admitted to Colleyville police that he hadn't paid for gasoline for seven years after they arrested him recently for pilfering gas pumps in their city.
Adam Warren, 24, was arrested Oct. 7 and booked into the Tarrant County Jail on a charge of felony theft, according to jail records. He has since been released on $15,000 bond, the records state.
Warren and two accomplices knew how to access pumps that were "out of service" at convenience stores that were closed for the night, said Officer Bill Hudgins, Colleyville police spokesman.
"They found a way to turn them on," Hudgins said. "We are not going into that; we don't want to make it so everyone can do that.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"If that word leaks out, take my word for it, it would be like telling everyone how to get into a bank."
The other suspects were Anndretta English, 26, and Jerry Stevens, 39, both of Fort Worth. Both on Wednesday were out of jail; English on $7,500 bond and Stevens on $10,000 bond, according to records.
English and Stevens were first seen by police getting gas "without authority or permission" around 2 a.m. Oct. 7 from a convenience store in the 4200 block of Glade Road in Colleyville.
The gas pumps were displaying "out of service" on the display screens for the pumps, Hudgins said.
Warren arrived later at the convenience store and all three were arrested, Hudgins said. Investigators subsequently learned that Warren was the ringleader, Hudgins said.
"He hasn't paid for gas for seven years," Hudgins said. "He told us he found out how to do it in 2001 and hasn't paid for gas since."
There are ways to prevent similar thefts, said Chris Newton, president of the Austin-based Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.
"This problem crops up from time to time across the country," Newton said. "It really becomes common with these high gas prices."
He noted a recent case in Austin in which $13,000 worth of fuel was stolen.
Newton also declined to give specifics on how the pumps are accessed while out of service. He noted, however, that the techniques have been shared on the Internet.
"(But) once retailers get hit, they tend to take the steps pretty quickly," Newton said. "They include putting new external locks on pumps and ensuring that the controls inside a dispenser are only accessible to approved personnel.
"A wide variety of tools and mechanisms are used to prevent dispensers from being accessed in this way."
Newton said he didn't know how much it would cost to install the security measures. He recommended that retailers consult service contractors who perform maintenance on the pumps.