Local News

Thieves use master key to fill up for free

Posted January 14, 2010

— Gas thieves aren't just filling up and driving off anymore. Some are turning to the Internet to obtain a master key to fill up for free.

Robert Lee, the owner of Paul's Grocery in Knightdale, said he lost about $500 in gas early Monday when someone broke into his gas pumps.

Gas pump generic Gas stations try to thwart key holders

"I felt kind of devastated that it was happening – not surprised, but devastated," Lee said.

Security video from the general store on Poole Road showed that someone drove up at about 1 a.m. Monday and used a master key to open the pump and reset a security keypad inside, which unlocked the pump and allowed people to fill up while the store was closed.

Over the next 30 minutes, about a dozen cars filled up for free.

"Two cars pulled up. They filled up. They left. (Another) two cars pulled up. They filled up. They left," Lee said. "Free gas night at Paul's Grocery."

Lee discovered the theft when he opened the store Monday morning and found his gas pumps weren't working properly. His maintenance man quickly diagnosed the problem and said other stations in Wake County have been hit recently.

"(One station owner) went back and checked his video footage at night, and it was happening almost every night," Lee said.

People are buying the master keys online, but Gary Harris, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, said they need a bit of knowledge about the pumps to unlock the flow once they get them open.

"I think that not just every Tom, Dick and Harry would be able to steal gas using this," Harris said.

Lee said he's learned of easy ways gas station owners can thwart thieves carrying a master key, including changing the keypad code inside the pump, shutting off power to the pumps at night or changing the locks on the pumps.

Lee said he's learned his lesson. The keypad on his pump had been set to the manufacturer's default code but has been changed, he said.

A Wake County Sheriff's Office investigator is investigating the gas theft from Paul's Grocery, and Lee said he hopes the security video will help crack the case.

"There are consequences and penalties for doing wrong. I just hope the law does what they're supposed to do," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • wildcat Jan 15, 2010

    not feel the same..
    Go GT

    Good comment!

  • 007KnightRider Jan 15, 2010

    I guess 24/hour pumps will soon be a thing of the past.

  • wildcat Jan 15, 2010

    This is why gas goes so high.....because of the thieving criminals. Once caught, they should be sent to prison for 5 years and when out do 5 years of community service. Put cameras out around the place and catch these criminals.

  • mt1190 Jan 15, 2010

    he kept the code to defult do you know what that means?

  • didisaythat Jan 15, 2010

    mt1190 how is it not the same? A theft is a theft. We should be able to keep our doors unlocked and not worry about people stealing. So if someone breaks the lock on the door, do you say well you should have had two locks...or if they break a windwo do you say well you should have had bars and when they crash the car through the front do you say well you should have had a moat. Why can't people blame the person that needs to be blamed....the criminal...plain and simple...it's not the police or the bad oil company, or President Bush it is the criminal.

  • Diabolical Jan 15, 2010

    stop raising the gas prices and you won't have people stealing the gas. Simple as that.

  • mt1190 Jan 15, 2010

    gogt- its not even the same thing and you know it!

  • Go GT Jan 15, 2010

    "Ignorance at work here by the owner or his contractor leaving the pump keypad passcode set to the default. Like leaving the password on your wireless router set to the manufacturer's default setting. It's well documented, and anyone has access to it by doing a web search." comensensical

    The owner is to blame huh? I guess if you came home and found your house had been broken into and all your stuff stolen-- but you locked the door (just as he had his pumps locked) you would be to blame?? Im sure when it is YOUR stuff you would not feel the same..

  • mt1190 Jan 15, 2010

    he should have cut the power. I guess now he will and change the defult password... I mean really Paul I thought your were smarter than that?

  • 3stoogesfan Jan 15, 2010

    This loss comes out of the owner's pocket, not the rich gas companies so anyone who would even think about stealing gas from this guy is really lowdown.