Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (DPS) has arrested a ring of gas thieves who stole more than 30,000 gallons of gas from the Valero Gas Station at the intersection of E. Duane Ave. and Lawrence Expressway.
On Dec. 17, DPS received a call about a theft in progress. According to the police report, a store employee called DPS and said they recognized someone on the surveillance system that had “previously gained unauthorized access to the gas pump computer to commit fraud multiple times.”
When officers arrived at the scene, they conducted two “high-risk” stops involving two different vehicles. Officers arrested Michael Muaddi, Jesse Cota Jr. and Erica Luna.
Police reviewed the surveillance footage from the gas station. They say on the video, they saw Muaddi activating the computer for a fuel pump adjacent to a vehicle occupied by Cota Jr., pumping gas into the vehicle and then placing a bag in an adjacent garbage can. When officers looked inside the bag, they found almost 170 grams of methamphetamine and 13 pills of prescription medication. Muaddi was arrested for unauthorized computer access to defraud, possession of methamphetamine for sales, conspiracy to commit a crime, petty theft and possessing and receiving stolen property.
Officers also arrested Cota Jr. and Luna. Both were charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, petty theft and possessing and receiving stolen property.
DPS says it believes this case is connected to arrests made at the Valero Gas Station on Dec. 14. On that day, officers arrived at the gas station just before midnight and arrested 66-year-old James Hodgins, 57-year-old Maurice Hanks and 55-year-old Kendale Demer.
According to the police report, “For weeks, these suspects had been conspiring together in a sophisticated operation to thwart security devices and pump electronics to steal large amounts of gasoline from the business.”
Officers say in total, the suspects have stolen 30,000 gallons of gas from the Valero station and caused damage to the pumps totaling $20,000. The total loss is believed to be approximately $200,000.
Anyone with additional information about this investigation is encouraged to contact Sunnyvale DPS at (408)730-7110.