Crime Watch

October 25, 2007

Prince George's man charged in tanker theft

A Prince George's County man was arrested and charged yesterday with hijacking a diesel fuel tanker truck from a Curtis Bay fuel depot last week.

Willie Orlando McKinnon, 43, of the 4800 block of 66th Ave. in Hyattsville was arrested by Prince George's County and Baltimore police in the 4800 block of Ravenswood Road in Hyattsville about 3:30 p.m. on a warrant charging him with armed robbery, hijacking and theft.

Cpl. Arvel Lewis, a Prince George's police spokesman, said McKinnon's arrest came after police received reliable information from concerned citizens.

McKinnon is charged with forcing at gunpoint a driver for Baltimore Tank Lines out of the tanker containing 7,100 gallons of diesel fuel when the driver was about to leave the Central Point Terminal in the 3100 block of Vera St. on Friday.

Because the fuel is highly combustible and can be mixed with ammonium nitrate to create tremendous explosions, authorities initially feared that the theft might be terrorism-related. Several state and federal agencies were alerted and joined the search for the hijacker and the tanker.

Several hours after the hijacking, the tanker was found abandoned and empty on a street in Southeast Washington, near Bolling Air Force Base.

An investigation led police to a Chevron gas station in Washington, where an attendant said he purchased the fuel.

News accounts reported that several customers driving gasoline-fueled vehicles purchased the fuel, not knowing it was diesel.

Lewis said McKinnon has been turned over to Baltimore police and that the investigation was continuing.

Richard Irwin

Guilty plea in a fraud case

A former Mercantile Bankshares Corp. vice president pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Baltimore to two counts of mail fraud related to a scheme to defraud the company of more than $900,000, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Thomas W. Small, 53, of York, Pa., admitted that he ran a small computer and technology consulting business out of his home and directed Mercantile to pay more than $900,000 through two outside contractors to his business, according to federal prosecutors. Small's company was supposed to provide computers and software to Mercantile but never did.

Small worked for Mercantile from March 1997 until August 2003, and was in charge of information technology and computer hardware and software purchases for part of the company, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that Small also authorized Mercantile payments to a relative. The payments were supposed to be for data processing and computer services, but all the relative did was data entry.

Small faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, prosecutors said. Sentencing is set for Jan. 25.

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