As gasoline prices rise at the pump, so apparently does the brazenness of some thieves trying to steal it.
In Tampa, Fla., authorities say criminals used a minivan with a cutout floorboard, a pump and a big plastic container in an elaborate scheme to siphon gas directly from a gas station’s underground storage tank.
"When the price of the commodities goes up, we're not surprised to see that enterprising thieves will find ways to get that commodity and make a profit," St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz told the Tampa Bay Times.
Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials say the gasoline caper happened Tuesday morning at a Citrus Park gas station. The suspects had cut a hole through the bottom of a Chevrolet minivan and parked the vehicle over the station's underground storage tank. They then used a portable pump to siphon gas into a plastic tank inside the minivan.
A deputy working a midnight shift spotted the minivan parked at an odd angle at the closed gas station and went to check. As he pulled into the lot, the thieves took off in another vehicle, leaving the minivan and their liquid loot behind, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Investigators found several hundred gallons of gas in containers inside the van with another 25 gallons spilled in the parking lot.
Marco Ishak, the gas station manager, told ABC News he was surprised by the attempted theft. “People are getting desperate,” he said.
"We had this problem pretty widespread a couple years ago," sheriff's Capt. Andy Ross said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "It kind of ebbed. It seems like this is on the uptick again."
The national average for a gallon of regular gas rose this week to $3.59, up more than 40 cents from a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Experts say prices at the pump could reach a record $4.25 a gallon by Memorial Day.
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