By NANCY COOK LAUER
Two former Department of Environmental Management employees have been charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing diesel fuel from pumps at the Waimea baseyard.
The charges come more than 18 months after county employees working with police began a surveillance investigation after an employee tipped off management that two other employees were filling 55-gallon drums with fuel on weekends using gas keys taken from county vehicles.
Warrants were issued Tuesday for former DEM employees Donald Wilbur, 40, and Billy Colliado, 42, according to Deputy Prosecutor Mark Disher. The pair had been arrested and released Oct. 29, 2011. Wilbur, who was an equipment operator, and Colliado, a Solid Waste Division facility attendant, were fired from the county that December.
Wilbur and Colliado were charged with second-degree felony theft, which is theft of more than $300 worth of materials. In addition, Wilbur was charged with three counts of unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and three counts of criminal trespass.
Colliado has been served with the warrant and has a hearing scheduled at 8 a.m. Wednesday with 3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance. Wilbur had not been served as of press time Thursday, according to prosecutors.
Disher said Thursday that the investigation took longer than anticipated because investigators were trying to gather evidence about how long the thefts were going on and how much fuel was stolen in order to help the county get full restitution.
Ultimately, prosecutors settled on charging the two only for the last month they were employed, he said.
“That’s one of the reasons it took so long,” Disher said. “To be able to charge beyond a reasonable doubt (for longer than one month) would be difficult, if not impossible, based on the records.”
A county employee familiar with the case estimated more than $100,000 worth of diesel fuel had been stolen over the course of two years.
A Nov. 1, 2011, report from a Solid Waste Division employee details how he, along with Department of Public Works division heads, conducted surveillance over three weekends. He said they then contacted the police, who were on the scene the final weekend and made arrests. Stephens Media agreed to keep the employee’s name confidential because of his fears of retaliation.
Both Colliado and Wilbur were county employees at the time of the theft. Theft in the second degree and unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle in the first degree are class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said last month that the thefts were a learning experience for the administration. Kenoi said he brought department heads to a meeting where new procedures were put into place so there are now more controls over access to fuel at county baseyards. Gas keys are no longer tied to vehicles, but to individuals, and invoices are scrutinized, he said.
“Every agency was told to take a good hard look at their procedures and tighten them up and ensure accountability,” Kenoi said. “You learn something from every incident.”
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.