April 04–A public works employee has been fired after his arrest Tuesday night on a larceny charge stemming from the theft of several hundred gallons of fuel from the city, police said.
Tyler Walker, 54, of Burke Street in East Hartford, was charged with second-degree larceny after an undercover operation Tuesday night.
Two others who are associated with a trucking company, Gardner Transportation, also were arrested, police said. Mark Gardner, 51, and Robert Lee Gardner, 77, both of 180 Willowcrest Drive in Windsor, were arrested on the same charge, police said. Mark Gardner is listed in state records as the principal of the trucking company.
More arrests are expected, police said.
Walker filled a city-owned refueling truck with close to 100 gallons of city gas on several occasions and made trips out-of-town or to a secluded spot in Hartford, where he filled privately owned vehicles with the fuel, police said.
According to police, Department of Public Works supervisors in March noticed discrepancies between how much fuel was available and how much was typically used. The amount drawn from city pumps was inconsistent with what was commonly used to refuel city vehicles.
They came to suspect Walker had been stealing fuel with a refueling truck that is used to gas up city vehicles in the field. An examination of a GPS-like device in the truck that tracks such vehicles showed that the truck he used in March made several trips out of town and several to the secluded, city-owned rail lot behind the Xfinity theater on New Road, police said.
Detectives set up a hidden security camera in the rail lot area and learned that, on Saturday, the refueling truck assigned to Walker “was seen meeting up with a tractor trailer and appeared to refuel the privately owned vehicle.”
Police then planned a surveillance operation for Walker’s 3-11 p.m. shift Tuesday. Undercover officers saw Walker fill the refueling truck to capacity at the city pumps in the beginning of the shift and then, several hours later, travel to East Hartford. There, they saw the truck pull into a garage bay on Charles Street, police said. The truck later pulled out of the bay and began to refuel a privately owned flatbed truck.
Officers then arrested Walker and his two alleged conspirators, Mark Gardner and Robert Lee Gardner.
Walker admitted to stealing the gas and selling it at a price of $150 per 100 gallons for personal profit, police said. He said he had done it “several” times since February at different locations, including the East Hartford site and the rail lot.
Walker posted his $25,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Hartford on April 10, police said.
Bail for the other two men was the same; it wasn’t clear Wednesday afternoon whether they posted it.
Fire Chief Reginald Freeman, acting director of public works, called the thefts are unfortunate, but he noted that they could have been worse had supervisors not picked up on them.
In a written statement, Freeman said he is “proud of our DPW supervision for using established protocols and quickly noticing the fuel deficit. Our DPW supervisors contacted HPD immediately and assisted as needed in the investigation. Thankfully we’ve established asset protection on many levels through the use of technology.”
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