FINAL DEFENDANTS SENTENCED IN “GASCAPER” -- STOLE AN ESTIMATED $2.9 MILLION WORTH OF FUEL
Company Insiders Doctored Records and Procedures to Sell Stolen Gas to Area Stations
JAMES RAYMOND ITO, 47, of Bellevue, Washington and NEIL BURT KIKUCHI, 57, of Kent, Washington, were sentenced today in connection with the “Gascaper” case where millions of dollars of fuel were stolen from the Harbor Island Fuel Depot in Seattle between January, 1999, and September, 2004. ITO was sentenced to 16 months in prison and three years of supervised release and KIKUCHI was sentenced to 17 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Both men pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Interstate Shipments, Theft of Interstate Shipments, and Money Laundering. Both were ordered to pay more than $800,000 in restitution. At sentencing Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik told ITO, “Here is someone who stole millions of dollars in a sophisticated way.... He had other options... I have to look at his motivation. It was greed.”
The ringleader of the scheme, Martin Lynn Guitard, of Olympia, Washington, was sentenced in March to 46 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $1,188,123 in restitution. Two other defendants Christy Sue Rawls, of Puyallup, Washington, and Andrew D. Cutright, of Bonney Lake, Washington were each sentenced in July 2006, to 18 months in prison and three years supervised release.
At sentencing both ITO and KIKUCHI expressed deep remorse. ITO said, “I came to a fork in the road and took the easy way out.... I’d like to go back in time and take a different road. I want my children to know there is no rationalization for taking what is not yours.” KIKUCHI told the court he had learned, “there are no shortcuts in life. No matter what the situation is, you can’t be weak and take the easy path.”
Guitard, Rawls and Cutright were all employed by the GATX company which operated the fuel depot. KIKUCHI and ITO were employed by General Transport Company, a trucking firm that delivers fuel to gas stations. Guitard was the terminal supervisor at the 13th Avenue Harbor Island fuel depot from at least 1999 until November, 2000. As the supervisor Guitard knew a special code that would allow maintenance workers to pump product from the tanks to check the equipment. Use of the maintenance code meant there would be no record of the amount of fuel pumped.
According to the indictment, Guitard approached KIKUCHI in late 1998 or early 1999 with a plan to steal fuel from the depot and sell it for personal gain. Guitard claimed that if they kept the fuel amounts within the “margin of error” on the depot pumps, no one would notice the missing product. KIKUCHI had access to tanker trucks and customer stations through his employment with General Transport Company. ITO served as the bookkeeper for the scheme, depositing the payments from unsuspecting gas stations and disbursing the proceeds to the co-conspirators. Rawls’ role in the conspiracy was to delete data from the internal computer systems at the depot that might have revealed the fuel theft, and also to monitor monthly inventories that would determine the amount that could be stolen in each month based on the related “margin of error.” Cutright, a nephew of Guitard, assisted the scheme, too, by inputting the maintenance code so that KIKUCHI could fill tanker trucks with stolen fuel without generating any record of the theft transaction.
The eighteen month investigation of the scheme began when one of the oil companies using the depot complained about an apparent loss of product from the fuel depot. The fuel depot owner, Kinder Morgan, contacted the Port of Seattle Police, who began the criminal investigation. They were joined in the investigation by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI).
Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Warma prosecuted the case. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.