Men convicted in alleged attempt to steal gasoline
STAFFORD, TX (KTRK) -- A jury convicted Ariel Medina and Luis Mayonada-Hurtado in a combined trial on Thursday for using a modified freightliner truck cab to steal gasoline. The West Houston men, both in their 30's, were then sentenced by the court for their crimes. Medina was sentenced to one year in state jail and Mayonada-Hurtado was assessed the maximum of two years.
According to Assistant District Attorney Mark LaForge, the owner of a Stafford gas station became concerned about ongoing thefts of gasoline from his Chevron station on South Main. In response, he installed a video security system that broadcast signals from the station to his home. Then, on January 28, 2010, he observed a white freightliner truck pull into the closed station near midnight. As two persons got out and walked around the truck, the owner immediately called the police.
Stafford police officers arrived to find the truck parked directly over the access caps to the underground fuel storage tanks. Ariel Medina was hiding on a tray installed beneath the truck and smelled of diesel fuel. A hammer and flashlight were located nearby as police discovered the cap of the underground diesel tank had been pried off. They also located a pump installed underneath the truck near the drive shaft.
Luis Mayonada-Hurtado was found in the driver's seat with an instruction manual for a "fuel transfer pump." Additional gas tanks were welded together underneath the cab and on the exterior of the sleeper section. Police also discovered a hose extending down into the diesel storage tank in the ground. Inside the truck cab was a 3500-watt power inverter with cables trailing to the underside of the cab and a remote control -- presumably all used to control the pump. No diesel was actually stolen that night by the two defendants and both men denied their intent to do so during trial.
"The overwhelming evidence made clear to the judge and jury that the real purpose of this modified truck cab was to steal and transport large amounts of fuel," said Mark LaForge. "When loaded to capacity with fuel, the truck cab would have been a rolling fireball. The quick thinking of the store owner and the Stafford Police Department prevented not only the theft, but the extreme danger to our citizens on the roadways."
The defendants were tried in the 434th District Court before Visiting Judge Reagan Clark. Unlawful use of a criminal instrument in this case is a state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail prison facility and a fine up to $10,000. Mayonada-Hurtado was previously convicted of felony drug trafficking in Florida in 1998, but both men were eligible to receive probation. Both defendants were released on bond pending appeal of the verdicts.
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