Credit cards were a real gas
NAUGATUCK — Police arrested three Waterbury men this week after an investigation concluded they used a credit card issued by their employer to ring up more than $26,000 in gasoline for their personal cars.
Court documents obtained Monday also reveal that the distribution warehouse employing the men was targeted during a heist last year where $40,000 was stolen. Police say they’re continuing to investigate that theft.
Police launched a lengthy investigation in July after a loss prevention officer for Harold Levinson & Associates complained to police that an audit of company books had revealed the misuse of several company credit cards.
The Rubber Avenue warehouse ships soda, snacks and cigarettes and other items to area convenience stores. The men, Jose Pacheco and his brother Paul, both 30, and Eric Hidalgo, 27, of 73 Fox Run Road, were drivers for the company.
Each was given a credit card for filling their delivery vehicles while they were working. The cards also had unique PIN codes so that the employee could be held accountable for the fuel they pumped.
The company was tipped off to the misuse after an audit of the fuel usage revealed Jose Pacheco was using the card while he was out on workers’ compensation. A company employee also noted that regular gas was charged on the card, while the delivery trucks used by the company burn diesel.
The company totaled the amounts of the suspected fraudulent charges, finding that in the course of about a year each man had run up gas bills that ranged from $6,000 to $8,000.
Court documents indicate the company wanted the thefts kept quiet until replacement drivers could be found.
The loss prevention manager told police Hidalgo was fired for stealing company time and Jose Pacheco was canned for stealing from a customer’s credit line, according to court documents.
Court documents indicate Pacheco admitted to using the card to fill up his car, saying the company didn’t question him about the fill up, so he kept charging gas on the card.
But Pacheco went on to talk with police about a robbery at the warehouse late last year. Police said Tuesday the warehouse was targeted by two men who disabled surveillance cameras and stole about $40,000.
Pacheco told police he stopped using the card after the robbery because of the heat the company was getting from police. When he was confronted about his use of the credit card, Pacheco told police he believed Hidalgo was involved in the robbery.
In a statement included in his arrest warrant, Pacheco told a detective that he returned to the warehouse after a delivery run and overheard Hidalgo talking on a cellphone, telling someone the warehouse would be easy to rob and that they deal in cash and money orders.
A few weeks later, Pacheco told police, Hidalgo’s friends applied for a job at the warehouse, but were rejected. Police are still searching for the men involved in the warehouse robbery.
The Pachecos and Hidalgo were arrested Monday and Tuesday on charges of larceny and illegal use of a credit card.
The men were given $1,000 bonds after they were arraigned in Waterbury Superior Court; they’re due back in court later this month.