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Store manager chases van after thieves steal more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel from family-owned gas station

By David Williams, CNN

The manager of a family-owned gas station in Houston, Texas, chased off suspected thieves, who he said had already taken more than a thousand gallons of diesel fuel from the store’s underground tanks in separate incidents.

Jerry Thayil, whose father owns the Fuqua Express station, told CNN the thieves hit the station three days in a row last week and got away with between $5,000 and $6,000 worth of fuel.

They tried for a fourth time on Friday, but Thayil ran after them. Surveillance video shows him racing across the store’s parking lot as a dark colored minivan drove off.

“I didn’t want to just let them hit us again and lose another $1,200, $1,300,” he said. “So I decided I would do something about it and I ran out there and chased them away.”

The thefts come as police in the US are warning drivers to take steps to protect their vehicles from possible gas thieves as fuel prices surge to historic levels.

Thayil said he noticed discrepancies in the station’s fuel levels on Wednesday and Thursday.

He went through the station’s security footage and saw a dark minivan park on top of the lids covering the opening to the station’s tanks on the days the fuel went missing.

Thayil said the van apparently was equipped with a trap door so the occupants could get to the tank and pump out the fuel without being seen. They were able to get away with 300-350 gallons of diesel fuel at a time, he said.

“We’re a family-owned business, so every penny counts around here,” he said. “We’re supporting 11 employees who work here. They have they have their own families, so we don’t want to let them down.”

The Houston Police Department is investigating the incident. A police spokesman told CNN they have not seen an increase in gas thefts, despite sky-high prices.

Thayil said this was the first time his station has dealt with fuel thefts. He said the business is talking with its insurance company to see if the thefts are covered.

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