Man faces trial in 10-month theft of gas

He is accused of unlawful use of county credit card

Procedures are being changed

August 03, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A Glen Burnie man faces trial next month in what Howard County police say is a brazen 10-month series of thefts - taking gasoline without paying from the county's pumps outside police headquarters.

Antoin A. Spence, 29, of the 200 block Evans St. is charged with stealing 572.3 gallons of gasoline, worth $954.92, in 31 visits to county pumps between August 2004 and May 3, 2005, using a county gas credit card.

Spence, according to court documents, had worked for a nonprofit company named Athelas Institute in Columbia that contracts with the county government to transport handicapped adults. The company is issued county gas cards to use for its vehicles, and is then billed once a month for the gas used.

Spence was fired in July 2004, charging documents said, but continued using a county card to fill up his black Ford pickup truck, until the night of May 3, when county police Detective Greg Der was near the pumps washing his unmarked cruiser.

Der noticed the man seemed nervous, looking around frequently, and his truck bore no county markings, so the detective began a conversation and alerted a uniformed sergeant who also happened by.

According to the court documents, the man gave the officers his identification and said he had once been a county police officer. He said he had changed jobs to work for the county's transportation fleet. He finished fueling his truck and drove off.

The next day, police later learned, Spence visited Athelas and returned the gas card, telling company employees that he "was using it by mistake," and that he had "forgotten" to return it.

He was later charged with theft and is awaiting trial next month.

Raquel Sanudo, chief county administrative officer, said the county is moving to change procedures for using and keeping track of the gas cards.

"We're requiring that employees enter more information when they get gas," she said.

Mark Desmengles, head of fleet services for Howard County, said the county now requires use of two plastic cards to obtain gas. First, an employee or contractor swipes the gas card assigned to the vehicle. Then the worker must swipe another card holding his or her personal identification.

The county has issued 1,560 gas cards, Desmengles said, including about 300 to employees who use their personal vehicles for work and some to private contractors. Each month, he said, the county issues a usage report to each agency holding the cards. They are supposed to account for each one and review the statement.

The inspectors who use their personal vehicles are billed monthly for the gas they use, Sanudo said, and they then submit expense accounts for reimbursement for their work mileage. The gas costs less because local governments do not pay state gas taxes.

Sanudo said the alleged theft cost the county no money because it was billing Athelas for the charges.

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