by Peter Bernard
Florida sheriff's deputies have arrested a 70-year-old man believed to have stolen thousands of gallons of gasoline using an elaborate pumping system.
Hobert Gibson of Winter Haven was arrested Tuesday on grand theft charges of stealing thousands of gallons of gas from stations in Pasco and Polk counties.
He was charged with two counts of grand theft by each county, and may face numerous additional charges, according to a Polk County sheriff's news release.
Gibson may be responsible for stealing 3,000 to 10,000 gallons of fuel each week using a box trailer and truck to steal the gasoline from the gas stations, investigators said.
Deputies saw Gibson siphoning 400 gallons of gas from a Circle K store in Lakeland, and 523 gallons of gas from a Cumberland Farms Store in Dade City.
Deputies in a helicopter and cruisers followed Gibson to the gas stations and into Hernando County, where he was arrested.
Gibson was driving a stolen box trailer, taken from Central Food Equipment in Lakeland in 2005, deputies said.
The trailer had been outfitted with two tanks with a capacity of 3,250 gallons of fuel.
Gibson rigged a trap door in the bottom of the trailer and parked over the underground fuel tanks at gas stations.
Deputies said he would drop a hose into the tanks and use marine batteries to pump the gas into the trailer.
He would unload the fuel into larger tanks at his business, Crews Towing.
Gibson would sell the fuel at $1.80 a gallon.
Detectives said Gibson may have been at it since at least the beginning of the year.
They're now trying to find others involved.