FORT PIERCE — A Miami man was arrested this week after a police investigation into damage to several St. Lucie County gas stations' fuel pumps that allowed thousands of dollars worth of fuel to be dispensed for free, according to recently released records.
Elton Paul Carter, 27, was arrested Tuesday on charges including robbery, organized dealing in stolen property, communication fraud of $300 or more, and third degree grand theft following incidents that began in late April.
Fort Pierce police learned fuel pumps at three gas stations — a Mobil in the 4100 block of Orange Avenue, a Race Trac in the 5800 block of Okeechobee Road and a business identified as Food and Fuel in the 1300 block of North 25th Street — had been manipulated, damaged or altered to allow fuel to be pumped without payment.
The case began with a complaint from Mobil. A man identified by police as the victim said that on April 29 he came to work around 3 p.m. and the station was "very busy," which was unusual for that time of day. He said the " 'bright color, big, old, American cars from Avenue D' were all over the parking lot," an affidavit states.
For the next hour, the area of two of the pumps stayed busy. The victim looked at a computer inside, which showed no fuel had been dispensed from the pumps for nearly two hours. The victim went to a man who said he was pumping gas. The victim said he looked at the front of a pump, and the display didn't show fuel being dispensed even though it was pumping fuel.
The victim asked the man how he paid, and the man said he used a credit card. When the victim asked to see the card, the man pushed him away. When the victim said he was calling 911, the victim said all the vehicles cleared out.
The victim said the last paid purchase on one of the pumps was $5 prepaid just after 2 p.m. on April 29. A receipt indicated only $2.64 in premium unleaded was dispensed.
"(The victim) said he suspected the pump had somehow been manipulated while that customer was pumping fuel, which resulted in ... premium unleaded valued at $2,086.90 being dispensed without charge before (the victim) discovered the theft," an affidavit states. The victim said diesel also was dispensed but he didn't know how much.
In following days, officials at the Race Trac and Food and Fuel notified police of pumps believed to have been altered.
After being given a tag number, police talked to a woman who said she arrived on April 29 from Miami with a friend, identified as Carter. She said Carter was helping her move her things to Fort Pierce.
"When I pointed out that one of the locations where the gas was stolen was the gas station on North 25th Street, she stated that he did use the car to go to the store about that time," an affidavit states.
The victim at Mobil picked Carter's photo from a line-up as the person "running the fuel theft operation" and as the person who shoved him. Employees at Food and Fuel and Race Trac, which apparently was the subject of incidents on two occasions, also identified Carter.
Police spoke to another woman who said she got text messages from Carter offering fill ups. She said people would call Carter, who would supply a location where he was selling fill ups.
She showed text messages on her phone, one of which read, "'Im in fortpierce rite na if u need dat fillup call me.'"
She said when she got to Food and Fuel she saw Carter pry open the pump and manipulate it. She said she left after that and got no fuel.
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