(NewsNation Now) — Some particularly brazen gas thieves targeted a gas station outside Houston using a “trap door” in their vehicle to access gasoline stored underground.
Reports of gasoline thefts are on the rise across the country as prices at the pump have spiked to new records.
Jerry Thayil’s family owns the gas station where thieves pumped out — and stole — 1,000 gallons of gas.
Thayil told NewsNation he first noticed a deficiency in his daily inventory reports.
“After a couple of days of seeing the same kind of deficiency, that kind of made the alarm go off in my head,” he said.
Thayil said he combed through surveillance video footage and noticed something out of the ordinary.
A “dark, dark green van, just sitting on top of pumps,” he said. “No one getting out. And that’s what kind of led me to believe that that’s what they were doing.”
What they were doing was stealing gas — and not just a little bit.
The thieves utilized a sort of “trap door” in their vehicle to covertly access the 6,000-gallon underground storage tanks.
“With this trap door, they would get into the right position, go over the fuel cap, break the lock, and insert their hose and start pumping out fuel,” Thayil said.
The thieves were able to store large amounts of the stolen gas in enormous plastic storage tanks inside the van. It’s so dangerous — and flammable — that police have referred to these types of vans as “rolling bombs.”
“After talking to investigators, they were telling me this is more common than it seems,” Thayil said. “That they have this trap door, so that it’s kind of inconspicuous.”
Surveillance video shows a dark-colored van positioning itself over an underground tank.
Thayil said the thieves hit his station three times that week and tried for a fourth when he got wise to their operation.
The video shows Thayil running after the thieves, chasing them down the street.
Thayil said his family is checking to see if insurance can cover their loss.
“We don’t expect to see the money,” he said. “I mean, if it comes back. You know, that’s great, but we just take it as a loss.”
As fuel prices continue to spike, gas thieves are also using drills to puncture car gas tanks to siphon off gas.
“It can happen to anybody,” Thayil said.