- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — A man who police say pretended to be a station attendant and “sold” gasoline to drivers for $10 a tank was stealing the expensive commodity and pocketing the purchase money.

Joseph K. Boulware, 41, of an unknown address, was arrested May 19 at a gas station in West Baltimore where, police said, he dispensed 450 gallons of gas worth about $1,300.

He was charged with theft, assault and possession of crack cocaine. His bail status could not be determined.

Authorities said Mr. Boulware used a magnetic key and a code that effectively places a pump on standby mode, allowing him to dispense gasoline unnoticed.

Mr. Boulware had worked for gas-testing companies, which, police think, is how he obtained the key and code.

A spokeswoman for Austin, Texas-based Tanknology said Mr. Boulware worked there from February 2004 to May 2004, but would not discuss his employment further, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“He asks you, ‘You want gas? I will fill you up for $10,’” said Mohammad Mehtabdin, manager of the Citgo station where Mr. Boulware was arrested. “Nobody will complain about that.”

About 5:30 p.m. on May 19, a $71 charge for pump No. 8 showed up on the register inside the Citgo, catching sales associate Francis Okondu by surprise.

Mr. Okondu, Mr. Mehtabdin and three other employees confronted the man.

“I was working that night,” Mr. Mehtabdin said. “He was going pump to pump. He was selling gas to the people. So our employees noticed. We asked him, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘Nothing, nothing.’”

While trying to flee, the man punched a station worker in the face, the manager said.

“He tried to run away, but we surrounded him,” Mr. Mehtabdin said. “He was yelling, ‘I did nothing.’”

The man fled inside the station. When police arrived, they reported finding the black magnetic key hidden inside a Ritz cracker box on a shelf.

Police recovered the key and seized $335 in cash and two purple vials containing rocklike substances that Mr. Boulware “had in his possession,” police said.

Police say they are investigating other gas-pilfering schemes at as many as eight other stations.

“He had a lot of customers,” Mr. Okondu said.

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