| Polk County Sheriff’s Northeast District detectives, working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, arrested a 70-year-old Winter Haven man on Tuesday, October 16, 2007, after investigation revealed he used a box trailer and truck to steal gasoline from area gas stations. |
|Hobert Gibson, DOB 6/21/37, of 3435 Recker Hwy in Winter Haven, has so far been charged with one count of Grand Theft by Pasco County, one count of Grand Theft by Polk County, and is facing numerous additional charges. He was taken into custody without incident in Hernando County yesterday and booked into the Hernando County Jail after PCSO deputies conducted surveillance and witnessed him illegally siphoning 400 gallons of gas from the Circle K store at 8324 US Hwy 98 North in north Lakeland, and 523 gallons of gas from the Cumberland Farms store at 20400 US Hwy 98 North in Dade City. With assistance from the PCSO helicopter, deputies followed Gibson to both of the aforementioned gas stations and then into Hernando County, where he was placed under arrest.
Gibson has been driving a stolen box trailer, which was stolen from Central Food Equipment on Reynolds Rd. in Lakeland in 2005, that he outfitted with two tanks that have a capacity to hold 3,250 gallons of diesel and gasoline. Gibson rigged a trapdoor in the bottom of the trailer, and stole gasoline by parking the trailer over the top of underground fuel tanks at gas stations, dropping a pump hose into the underground tanks from the bottom of the trailer, and using marine batteries to power fuel pumps to siphon the gas into his own tanks in the trailer. He would then offload the stolen fuel into larger tanks at his business property, Crews Towing, LLC, at 3435 Recker Hwy in Winter Haven. He is suspected of selling the stolen fuel, and the investigation is ongoing.
Sheriff Judd is urging businesses in the central Florida area to report to law enforcement officials if they feel they have been victimized. So far investigation has revealed that Gibson may be responsible for stealing 3,000 to 10,000 gallons of fuel each week.
“Hobert Gibson’s activities are a shocking wake-up call to some serious issues of gas theft in and around Polk County, and to homeland security,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “Anytime someone can steal that much gasoline and have it go unreported, and drive around with so much gasoline that the fumes can be smelled by anyone in the area, we are very concerned, and we will do everything we can to prosecute Gibson at the state and local level.”