Mendocino County authorities are investigating the theft of about $5,500 worth of gasoline from a gas station in coastal Gualala, where the culprits arrived by night, jimmied or hacked into the dispenser and pumped more than 1,100 gallons of Super unleaded fuel into a U-haul box truck.
The fuel's disappearance was discovered Wednesday when a morning clerk at the Chevron did a tank measure and found a difference of more than 1,100 gallons from a similar check conducted when the station closed at 8 p.m. the night before, clerk Cindy Broesamle said.
A review of surveillance video revealed the theft.
The footage showed a sporty black Trans Am-like car and a beat-up U-haul truck arriving at the station around 4:30 a.m., with the truck pulling up to the pump, Broesamle and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said.
Perhaps using a key typically employed by maintenance or inspection personnel, the thief was able to unlock the pump, punch in a code or otherwise manipulate the electronics and pump a large volume of fuel into a tank in the back of the truck, they said.
The license plate was covered, preventing identification of the vehicle, Broesamle said.
Super unleaded at the Chevron is currently priced at $4.60 a gallon, just raised from $4.55, she said.
Authorities put the estimated value of the stolen fuel at $5,500.
The manager of the Unocal 76 station across Highway 1 said he thinks someone tried and failed in a similar attempt there last week, though the would-be thief instead ended up shutting down the pump.
Unocal manager Bob Sundstrom said the pump wasn't working when the station opened one morning and the internal computer code indicated the pump had failed.