POMARIA, S.C. — Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster still isn't quite sure how much gas three suspects allegedly managed to steal before they were caught Saturday morning, but he guessed it was probably worth several thousands of dollars.
Armed with a remote-controlled device, two trucks, and some fuel tanks, he believes they may have gotten away with the crime were it not for the keen eyes of two deputies.
The first deputy was on patrol in the Pomaria area just after 1 a.m. when, according to the sheriff's office, he noticed suspicious activity - a pickup truck and person at Wilson's Store on U.S. Hwy. 176. The deputy then called for backup - a deputy who spotted yet another strange happening just down the road from Wilson's at the Pomaria Food Mart.
In both truck beds, deputies said there were fuel tanks.
After thoroughly investigating the situation, the deputies determined that the trucks were part of a diesel theft plan implemented by three. The sheriff's office said the suspects had the help of a remote-controlled device that was able to activate the fuel pumps.
Investigators have since arrested all three, 53-year-old Russell Weldon Fountain, 25-year-old Jasper Jerell Epps, and 25-year-old Charisma Chimere Peterson, each from Florence.
The three were charged with breaking into motor vehicle tanks and pumps, violation of the computer crimes act, and conspiracy. Epps was also charged with unlawful carry of a pistol.
And while the crime may sound somewhat unusual now, Sheriff Foster warned that similar efforts are likely to become more common as fuel costs increase.