Fuel thief strikes

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Gas station surveillance video showed the same vehicle was involved in at least two gas “drive-off” larcenies in Spring Lake last month, said Detective Bruce Morningstar of the Fruitport Township Police Department. The images showed a white Pontiac Grand Am displaying a license plate that was reported stolen to Fruitport Township Police the same month.

The 32-year-old man was charged in a similar series of incidents in 2009 in Norton Shores with the same vehicle, Morningstar said.

The man, who was not named pending arraignment, was located following a joint investigation between Fruitport Township and Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police.

The man is being charged with larceny (of gas) less than $200 and driving while his license was suspended, according to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office. Both are misdemeanors. The larceny less than $200 charge carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail.

Muskegon County is expected to authorize a charge of receiving and concealing stolen property, in connection with a stolen license plate that was on the suspect's vehicle, Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung said.

Police located the vehicle at the man’s Fruitport home on Monday. Morningstar said it was easy to identify because of unique damage and stickers on the car.

A search warrant was obtained for the man’s home. Police recovered two stolen license plates, including the one that had been reported stolen in Fruitport Township. The other plate had been reported stolen to Muskegon Township Police, also last month, Morningstar said.

Police are trying to determine whether or not the vehicle and stolen plates were used in additional criminal activity.

DeYoung said people often drive off without paying for gas, but it is usually because they were distracted or thought their credit card was authorized when it wasn't.

In this case, the man was trying to get free gas, DeYoung said.

“I expect we’ll probably see more of this as gas prices continue to rise,” the police chief said.

The incident is still under investigation.

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