VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Police claim they uncovered an unusual scheme: people bypassed a gas pump's credit card machine to sell gas for their personal, illegal gain.
It happened at the Citgo gas station on North Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach, according to investigators.
Rashane Griffith, 24, and Devon Drumgoole, 21, were arrested and charged with grand larceny, conspiracy and possession of burglary tools, the Virginia Beach Police Department said.
Lt. Brad Wesseler said the setup allowed the men to steal about $14,000 in profit from the gas pump they hacked.
"This is new to us," said Wesseler. "This is something we have not seen in our area."
It's a scheme people are particularly vulnerable to, as gas price averages near $5.00 per gallon around the area -- historic highs.
This past week, patrol officers noticed a large group of cars filling up at the pumps, but they learned the gas station had closed for the day, according to Wesseler.
"It caught their attention," he said. "Why are cars loitering at closed gas stations?"
After checking it out, police said the suspects got illegal access to the pumps and instructed officers to pay them using a mobile payment service.
Wesseler said investigators also came across social media posts last week. It was offering people gasoline for half-price and told people to message the author to find out where to get it.
Some investigative work connected the post to the after-hours business.
“Someone would greet them. Pay [the suspects] on Cash App. [They] would then distribute gas, and then, they’d close up and leave," said Wesseler. "The owner comes in, checks his pumps, everything seems normal.”
Wesseler said they think the people behind the scheme had technology that allowed them to bypass the pump's security. Now, the department is warning other gas stations about that possibility, and police fear the crime may be more widespread.
"Not only in Virginia Beach, possibly in Hampton Roads but even the state," said Wesseler.
Virginia Beach police are asking gas station owners to check their footage over the last few weeks to make sure they are not victims, too.
And what about the people who paid for the gas?
Wesseler said investigators are working with leaders at the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to determine if those drivers will face charges.
The investigation into this situation is ongoing.
If you know anything about this that could help detectives, call Virginia Beach Crime Solvers at 1.888.LOCK.U.UP or leave an anonymous tip online.