Leads on empty as clues sought in 6,000-gallon aviation fuel theft

First Byline: 
Derek Moy

The Screven County Airport Authority and the Screven County Sheriff’s Office are stumped in a case involving more than 6,000 gallons of aviation fuel pumped out of a fuel tank at Plantation Airpark.
“Naturally I don’t like it,” Chairman of the Airport Authority Dewey Morgan Jr. said. “It’s the first time we’ve had anything like this happen in more than 30 years to anyone’s recollection.”
The theft could have happened at one time or several different times over a period of time was brazen, Morgan said. According to Morgan, it would have taken about 45 minutes with a fuel truck that was capable of sucking out 6,196 gallons.
“The sheriff is pretty good about stopping by there,” he said. “It was incredibly bold to do that; there’s only one way in and out of the airport and it would have only taken one person to see.”
There was also only one way the theft could have gone as unnoticed as it was, which was to reverse the power take off. Instead of filling up the gas tank, the suspect’s pump sucked the gas out. There was no evidence of tampering with the tank’s plugs or cheating the pump system (i.e. bypassing paying for fuel through an electrical problem).
Morgan said he discovered the tank was nearly empty Jan. 11 after attempting to fuel his airplane. The 10,000 gallon tank was full on Sept. 26, 2013.
Sadly, the authority did not have insurance for this type of theft and the more than $30,000 (an estimated $4.79 a gallon) worth of fuel will take years to recoup. The authority’s fuel is not financed by Screven County and the county will not incur any cost as a result of this incident.
Investigator Bill Crockett at the sheriff’s office said the leads on the case have dried up given the theft might have occurred during a four month time period and was only recently reported.
Morgan has had to contact the Department of Homeland Security and notify airports in the region (and across the United States) of the theft.
Security measures at the airport are being increased. A camera system will enable the sheriff’s office to monitor the facility at night via live stream.
Crockett said the theft likely was not a local resident. Aviation fuel can be sold at race tracks for high-octane racecars or sold to airports. There are nefarious purposes the fuel could be used for, but Crockett said it was likely sold.
“I doubt he would keep it for himself,” he said.