Oil Workers Stealing Diesel from Rigs, Illegally Filling Up Personal Vehicles

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

MARTIN COUNTY- The theft of red diesel fuel is on the rise in Martin County. It's a non-taxable diesel designed for commercial and off road equipment, like the machines used in oil rigs. In Stanton, oilfield workers are stealing red diesel from rigs and pouring it straight into their personal vehicles.

The average price of diesel fuel is about $4 per gallon. The locals NewsWest 9 spoke to say they know people in the oilfields stealing this fuel because they're desperate to save a few bucks.

With the boom, diesel theft continues to rise. This week alone, two arrests were made. Ethan Duke and Erik Marines have both been charged with "concealing motor fuel," which can potentially carry jail time and possible fines.

Fuel theft has become so problematic, that the Martin County Sheriff's Office has teamed up with state regulators to form a task force.

Sheriff John Woodward says, "Anywhere that the red diesel is being used throughout the comptroller's jurisdiction, he or she can go in and check that fuel."

Stealing diesel can carry with it more than just criminal charges. It's seen as a form of tax evasion.

"It can be a civil charge also with the IRS, so you can get hit several different ways," Woodward said.

Oil worker Johnny Passaron sees fuel theft all the time.

"They've got a big old tank for fuel and they just back up and fill up some barrels but you can't say you saw it because then you'll get in trouble, too," Passaron said.

Brian Taff also works in the oil industry. He says fuel theft was rampant in the 1970's and there's nothing new about it, except for the type of fuel.

"The drilling rigs had butane so they'd drive out there in the morning and fill their cars up with butane and go home. Nowadays people are buying diesel vehicles and drilling rigs are running off diesel now," Taff said.