Former city worker pleads guilty to taking 100,000 gallons of fuel

Public Works employee said thefts occurred over a year and a half

March 31, 2010|By Robbie Whelan | robbie.whelan@baltsun.com

A former Baltimore public works employee has pleaded guilty to stealing more than 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the city and re-selling it as part of a scheme that went unnoticed for a year and a half.

Maurice Boone, a 45-year-old tractor-trailer operator, was discovered January 5, 2009 by a Baltimore County police officer investigating a car-theft ring. When caught, he was filling several 250-gallon storage tanks with city-purchased diesel at a warehouse on Sparrows Point Road.

According to court records, Boone told police and an investigator from the city's Office of the Inspector General that the plot had been going on since 2007. He would fill a city tanker from a pump located at a landfill on Quarantine Road, make several rounds filling city vehicles as part of his job, then sell the remaining fuel for $1 a gallon to an associate named Jimmy, who would leave money for him at the warehouse rendezvous point. The associate was identified in court documents as James Wright, who is a co-defendant in the case.

Boone pleaded guilty Monday and will receive an eight-year, suspended sentence and five years' probation, records show. He must also pay the city $187,000 in restitution, but Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn K. Stewart delayed sentencing until July, a month after Wright's scheduled trial.

Boone's lawyer, Marc Minkove, said his client — who was fired from his city job in March 2009 — will testify against Wright "if he's summoned."

A charging document pegs the total amount of diesel that Boone stole at 101,305.4 gallons, but Public Works officials said they weren't sure of the precise number. A spokesperson for the State's Attorney's office said that the losses may have totaled as much as $1 million, but that prosecutors were unable to document the extent of the theft because of insufficient paperwork.

"From our end, we never knew how much fuel the guy was actually stealing," said Robert Murrow, a DPW spokesman.

He added that fuel prices were rising, so the agency did not notice the high price of diesel invoices being charged to its office. Diesel hit a historic high of $4.76 per gallon the week of July 14, 2008, before dropping to $2.01 six months later, according to Department of Energy statistics.

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