HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Hendersonville Police Department has uncovered a sophisticated and brazen operation involving the theft of tens of thousands of dollars worth of diesel fuel from local gas stations.

Police described this operation as calculated and highly coordinated, involving multiple members.

In addition, the Diesel Gang is believed to have hit gas stations all across the Mid South, investigators said.

In Hendersonville, it all unraveled on Nov. 13 at a Thorntons gas station in the 700 block of East Main Street. That’s where police said the thieves systematically stole approximately 4,200 gallons of diesel fuel, valued at close to $20,000.

Rolando Javier Rodriguez-Denis (Source: Hendersonville Police Department)

Surveillance footage of the gas station from that day shows a U-Haul truck and a Chevy pickup truck drive to a pump. According to authorities, the individuals inside those two vehicles were working together to steal thousands of gallons of diesel fuel in broad daylight.

Police identified one of the alleged fuel thieves as Rolando Javier Rodriguez-Denis, 25, of Florida.

Officials said Rodriguez was driving the Chevy pickup, which has been heavily modified to hold about 200 gallons of gas. Authorities also found a special pump on the truck to expedite off-loading the stolen fuel.

Rodriguez and the other syndicate members allegedly filled up their tanks before loading that stolen fuel into external tanks somewhere else, investigators reported.

Police said it took hours, but ultimately, the crew would come back to fill up again and again.

According to Lt. Jimmy Garrett with the Hendersonville Police Department, “4,200 gallons over several hours in our gas station alone.”

Authorities said the thieves would drill open the gas pumps and then install a device known as a fuel manipulator. It tricks the computer into thinking it is pumping fuel at a much slower and cheaper rate than it actually is.

“They’re able to manipulate the price, too,” Garrett explained. “In this case, it was like pennies on the dollar for the diesel fuel.”

Garrett told News 2 that Rodriguez would use a prepaid gas card and pay approximately $2 for the 200 gallons of diesel fuel.

However, on Friday, Dec. 2, there was a break in the case.

According to officials, a city LPR camera spotted Rodriguez’s altered pickup truck back in Hendersonville. Police swarmed to the area and found the truck at another gas station on West Main Street.

Dashcam footage shows officers arriving and taking Rodriguez — who was driving the same pickup with the modified gas tanks — into custody.

Rodriguez said nothing to law enforcement, who charged him with theft over $10,000 and vandalism over $1,000. He is being held in the Sumner County Jail and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Authorities said more charges are possible since the investigation has only just begun.

“This is a large scheme, we are pretty sure, but we haven’t put all the pieces together,” Garrett said.

According to the Hendersonville lieutenant, there are many questions remaining. For example, where is the fuel going, how is it being re-sold, and to whom?

Police told News 2 they are currently working with multiple law enforcement agencies to share information about similar cases.

If you have any information about this large-scale diesel fuel theft, you are asked to call the Hendersonville Police Department at 615-822-1111 or the Hendersonville Crime Stoppers
at 615-594-4113.