We’re pretty sure that’s not a factory option.
Authorities in Kissimmee, Florida arrested a man on Wednesday who made off with $500 worth of diesel in a custom Ford F-650 equipped with a hidden 1,000-gallon fuel bladder.
Deputies from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office pulled over Orlando Gonzalez-Menendez shortly after leaving a Wawa gas station last Wednesday. The Wawa staff got suspicious after the suspect made five consecutive diesel fill-ups, each worth $100, using different credit cards.
According to the arrest report, deputies smelled the “overwhelming and distinct odor” of diesel shortly after the traffic stop. Upon investigation, they found that storage panels on the back of the truck have been welded shut. This is where they discovered a hidden metal fuel tank with a capacity of 1,170 gallons. A James Bond-style switch concealed behind the driver’s seat activates a fuel pump, which diverts diesel to the hidden tank.
Further investigation revealed several credit cards stashed inside a cigarette box and under an orange traffic cone in the truck’s utility compartment. Of the 47 credit cards found throughout the vehicle, 39 appeared to be fake after the serial numbers did not match bank records. Consequently, Gonzalez-Menendez faces a litany of charges, including credit card fraud, possession of stolen counterfeit credit cards, credit card theft, grand theft, and unlawful conveyance of fuel.
Apart from being a fraud-mobile, the DIY F-650 tanker is a rolling accident scene waiting to happen. According to Major Jacob Ruiz of the sheriff’s office, “if that (truck) gets into any kind of accident, it’s (like) a driving bomb almost.” In 2014, a van with a hidden fuel tank exploded while filling up in Miami-Dade county, killing the fuel thief.
And unless you’re driving a monster truck, any vehicle that eats up 1,000 gallons in one go should be considered suspicious. “A pickup truck shouldn’t be consuming thousands and thousands of dollars of gasoline. Don’t hesitate to call us, let us check it out,” Major Ruiz added.
So-called “bladder trucks” are popular with credit card skimming rings. Heavy-duty pickups and sometimes conversion vans are modified with auxiliary fuel tanks made of metal or plastic, capable of holding between 250-500 gallons of stolen fuel.
According to the Secret Service, over 20 million gallons of diesel are stolen every year using counterfeit credit cards, primarily in the diesel black market hubs of Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.