P.R. man jailed for gasoline thefts

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   SANDPOINT — A preliminary hearing is pending in the case of a western Bonner County man accused of stealing more than $6,000 worth of gasoline using a prepaid debit card authorization scam.

   Tony Allen Lambert is charged with grand theft. A hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to justify trying Lambert on the felony charge is set for Wednesday.

   Lambert, 38, is being held at the Bonner County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

   Lambert committed the thefts at Priest River Family Oil from May 1 to Aug. 23, according to the criminal complaint.

   Lambert allegedly used the prepaid cards to purchase more gas than the face value of the card by capitalizing on the filling station’s authorization hold process. The authorization hold process is being changed as a result of the heists, court documents indicate.

   During a hearing to secure the charge against Lambert, Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Goins said Lambert used the scam to steal 100-120 gallons of fuel at a time. Surveillance footage from the station allegedly showed Lambert filling drums with gas.

   Goins told Judge Barbara Buchanan during the Aug. 24 probable cause hearing that Lambert sold the fuel to people he knew and also brought people to the station to fill up their vehicles, court records show.

   A search of Lambert’s home southwest of Priest River led to the discovery of discarded Visa debit cards, six empty 55-gallon drums and a siphoning apparatus, a Priest River Police report said.

   Chief Deputy Public Defender Janet Whitney moved for Lambert’s bail to be lowered because it was unconstitutionally high and argued that Lambert has ties to the community and is not a flight risk. Goins countered that Lambert is a flight risk and said Lambert has an active arrest warrant in Virginia and as many as 10 felony convictions in that state.

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