Suspects buy 15K using stolen city credit card

Case could be linked to separate burglary
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Police are investigating four suspects who allegedly racked up $15,000 in charges on a credit card they stole from the City of Auburn. The initial credit card theft reportedly occurred during a Nov. 2 burglary at the city’s waste water treatment plan. A credit card, specifically for gas, stolen from the City of Auburn was used to purchase $2,600 worth of gas at a Dawson Oil Cardlock station off of Bowman Road, according to Dena Irwin, spokesperson for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. The was taken from a city vehicle in the burglary of the waste water treatment plant. Approximately $15,000 worth of gas has been charged to the card in the past four to five weeks, Erwin said. A witness alerted law enforcement after allegedly seeing the suspects fill 12 55-gallon barrels with gasoline and put them in the back of two pickup trucks. Raymond Farmer, 54, John Steel, 47, Ranae Miller, 40, and Dawn Darnell, 47, all of Sacramento, were arrested on charges of grand theft, possession of stolen property, conspiracy and theft by credit card. None of the suspects are employed by the City of Auburn. “Farmer said they purchased the gasoline using a Dawson Oil credit card, but he told deputies that he did not know who owned the card,” Erwin said in a press release Thursday. “A Dawson Oil employee who came to the scene determined that the card belonged to the City of Auburn. Farmer also said he took the 55-gallon barrels from a business in Sacramento.” Bernie Schroeder, Director of Public Works for the City of Auburn, said nobody realized the card was missing until the arrests were made because the billing invoice for the month of November came in the day of the arrests and the vehicle it was left in is a back-up sewage cleaning truck. “Someone has charged $15,000 in gas since it was stolen. It’s disturbing that it was able to happen. There were safeguards in place. They were able to get away with it for four or five weeks because it was in a vehicle that had low usage,” Schroeder said. “Obviously we are very pleased to have the suspects captured.” Schroeder said the card was not reported as one of the items stolen Nov. 2 from inside the mechanical building and the vehicles. The city doesn’t usually keep credit cards in vehicles. She said the vehicle itself was in a secure carport in a locked building. “It isn’t standard procedure for all of our vehicles. It was locked in the vehicle. It was a situation where we typically do not keep them in there,” Schroeder said. The city did not cancel any credit cards because it did not believe any items of major significance were taken. “The items that were missing in the theft of Nov. 2 were fairly insignificant; a metal detector and some voltage meters,” Schroeder said. “It didn’t appear to be a highly sophisticated burglary.” They are looking into why the card was in the vehicle in the first place, she said. The $15,000 worth of charges were made at other Dawson Oil Card Lock stations. Steve Dawson, co-owner of Dawson Oil, said they were working with the City of Auburn to minimize its losses. “I personally don’t have any losses. I’m working with (the City of Auburn) to help minimize the losses as much as possible. Obviously, they are a very, very good customer of ours,” Dawson said. The only way the city can recover the money is through the suspects’ restitution, Schroeder said. Darnell and Miller were both released on bail. Farmer is currently being held for $15,000 bail and Steel for $60,000 bail. Detective Dale Hutchins of the Auburn Police Department said the law enforcement agencies are conducting a joint investigation. “The fuel card was stolen from a burglary at the waste water treatment plant. The fuel card showed up in the possession of the people who were subsequently arrested for stealing fuel at Dawson’s Oil,” Hutchins said. “We are conducting the investigation due to a very large amount of funds being stolen over the last four to five weeks.” Reach Sara Seyydin at