Man uses fuel-pumping device in van to steal gasoline

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

BREMERTON, Wash. - Bremerton police said an alert patrol officer spotted a van parked behind a gas station that had been turned into a drivable gasoline stealing machine complete with large tanks, pumps and an opening in the floor.

The van was parked behind a closed 76 station on Perry Avenue East at about 2 a.m. on Thursday when an officer stopped to run the license plate because he was suspicious about where it was parked. 

Police Chief Steven Strachan said as the officer was running the plate he saw movement under the van. 

“Uses a spotlight, (and) he sees it’s a hand and an arm moving around underneath the van,” Strachan said.

The officer approached the van and found Brett Berlin, 45, of Camano Island in the van along with the makeshift gas pumping mechanism.

Strachan said Berlin had removed a center console covering the van’s engine so he could reach underneath to the ground and had opened the top of the station’s underground gasoline storage tank, dropping a hose down into the opening, “and was using pumps that were located inside the van that had been installed in this old van and (was) pumping gasoline into 50-gallon drums.”

Police evidence photographs obtained by KIRO 7 show large square portable fuel tanks in the rear of the van along with car batteries to operate electric pumps with a hose attached.

Berlin was not arrested, but Strachan said evidence was sent to the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which will determine what charges he will face. Strachan said he was confident charges would be filed soon.

Strachan said his investigators believe Berlin has been stealing gas for a while. 

“He’s probably been doing this for some time, probably been doing it in a lot of different areas in the state and western Washington,” Strachan said.

Asked if he’d ever seen anything like this before Strachan said, “The phrase I always use is 'you can’t make this stuff up.'”