ANNAPOLIS, MD (June 20, 2007) – Agents for Comptroller Peter Franchot, working with Baltimore County Police, yesterday confiscated a fuel oil delivery truck found operating with contraband dyed fuel. In addition to finding illegal fuel in the vehicle’s propulsion tank, agents later learned that an unlicensed company was using the vehicle to transport almost 600 gallons of untaxed fuel.
Under Maryland law, diesel fuel that is dyed red, as agents discovered the suspect’s vehicle to possess, is reserved only for off-highway use on farms, construction sites and for home heating purposes. Some scofflaws attempt to use dyed fuel illegally because it is exempt from the state’s motor fuel tax. Diesel fuel is taxed at 24.25 cents per gallon.
“Those violators who choose to break our fuel laws are cheating Maryland taxpayers out of vital revenue that can be used to improve the transportation system of our state,” said Comptroller Franchot. “My enforcement agents are serious about providing a level playing field for those individuals and businesses that abide by the laws.”
The bust resulted from a routine commercial vehicle inspection conducted by Baltimore County Police south bound on I-95 near Kenwood Avenue. The vehicle pulled in for inspection and officers discovered illegal fuel in the truck’s propulsion tanks. Comptroller’s agents were notified and arrived on the scene to find that the vehicle belonged to Apex Tank Lines of 9701 Apollo Drive, in Largo, Md., an unlicensed fuel seller.
Agents charged the driver, George Mensam, 53, of Montgomery Village with unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on a highway with dyed fuel in the propulsion tank and for selling special fuel without a license. He faces a $1,000 fine and/or one year in prison for the dyed fuel charge and a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail for selling special fuel without a license. Both violations are misdemeanors.
Federal regulations require untaxed diesel fuel to be injected with a red color dye to indicate the fuel’s tax-exempt status and its high sulfur content, which can harm the environment. Except for certain tax-exempt organizations that the IRS allows to use low-sulfur dyed diesel fuel, only clear, low-sulfur diesel fuel is to be used for highway travel.
After confiscation of the vehicle agents sold the cargo of 591 gallons of dyed, low sulfur diesel in accordance with law. So far this fiscal year, enforcement agents have arrested a total of 356 individuals for motor fuel tax violations.
***EDITORS NOTE: Photos are available from the bust
CONTACT: Christine Duray, 410-260-6346 (office), 443-336-0215 (cell)