9 Investigates learns Orange County to conduct fuel audit



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County is preparing an audit of its two largest users of fuel after an employee was caught stealing more than 2,100 gallons of gasoline over a three-month period.

According to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the employee was observed on 40 occasions filling up his county vehicle and then filling up a personal, portable fuel container.

The county estimates the employee took in excess of $6,300 worth of gasoline from five locations, two near Orlando, one in Winter Park and two in Apopka.

"It's hard to know exactly how much was taken since he also had a county vehicle to fill," said Bryan Lucas of Orange County Fleet Management. "When he was confronted at the pumps, he retired on the spot."

The now-former employee has not been charged. Orange County is considering its options, and the county said it may seek criminal charges or it could pursue a civil case and under the statute seek treble damages, essentially three times the value of the stolen items, or in this case $18,900.

In the wake of the fuel thefts, the county is also undertaking its first comprehensive audit of fuel in more than a decade.

"You have got to find out what is going on in that type of situation," said Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie. "We want to make sure there are enough controls over the process to discourage abuse."

While each department within the county is responsible for its own controls over commodities like fuel, Haynie said the size of the theft is reason enough to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if this is an isolated incident or perhaps part of a much larger problem, and if the internal department controls are enough to identify fraud and theft.

"Once we begin (the audit), we will know if we need to narrow our scope or expand it," said Haynie.

The impending audit will examine Orange County Fire and Fleet Services, the two largest users of fuel in the county.

In 2012, Fleet Services used almost 2.5 million gallons of fuel.