Trucking company owner, employees plead guilty to stealing fuel

| 7/5/2007

Federal investigators say a Florida fuel trucking company director and seven employees stole gas and diesel by falsely claiming fuel deliveries while hiding it in tanks hidden inside a 40-foot shipping container.

Company employees then used the stolen fuel for company trucks and personal vehicles, all the while billing other companies for deliveries they never made. The company owner and seven employees all pleaded guilty to related charges in the past two months.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, authorities received information that drivers for the fuel hauling company, Genesis Petroleum Inc. of northeast Miami, were pumping fuel from its tankers into a modified 40-foot shipping container on private property near the Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

During the investigation, dubbed “Operation Rolaids,” agents saw fuel being pumped into the storage tanks inside the shipping container as company tanker trucks made their way to regular deliveries in Florida from Fort Pierce to Key West. The stolen fuel amounted to 8,000 gallons for multiple delivery victims, according to the news release.

The shipping container had been leased by Genesis Petroleum Inc. director Ricardo Aristides Mejia, 45, of North Miami. Mejia faced numerous charges because of the container’s lack of safety placards and other requirements for commercial fuel dispensers.

Employees of Genesis Petroleum Inc. have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and failing to properly placard, store, transport, transfer and handle hazardous materials.

The eight defendants who have pleaded guilty were Mejia and employees Roberto Muniz, 37; Yoel Betancourt, 36; Alberto Alvarez, 37; Leonel SanMartin, 42; Noel Delgado-Hernandez, 35; Dalayn Gonzalez-Linares, 26; and Tomas Valdivia, 41.

The defendants face sentencing dates in August and September before Judge William Zloch in US. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

Each defendant faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution payments. The company faces a possible punishment of five-years probation, fines up to $500,000 and restitution payments.

The container that was being used to temporarily store the stolen fuel was moved in August 2006 to an industrial yard in Davie, FL, though investigators observed the same pattern of deliveries and withdrawals.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer