Maryland authorities cite truck driver with Somerset County company
A Markleysburg man with ties to Somerset County attempted to sell motor fuel from a fuel delivery truck without a license and registration in Maryland, according to a media release from Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office. Agents with the Field Enforcement Division cited Eric Coleman Swank, 42, with operating a motor vehicle on a highway in Maryland with dyed fuel in the propulsion tank; engaging in motor fuel business without a license; transporting motor fuel/special fuel without registration; and unlawfully failing to have a copy of a loading ticket.
He also was cited by the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Maryland State Police for no hazmat endorsement; no apportioned registration; no shipping papers for hazmat; and displaying an expired Pennsylvania registration plate.
He was driving for Laurel Fuel Co., of Rockwood, which is not licensed to sell fuel in Maryland, according to the comptroller’s office.
According to the release, FED agents received a tip and began conducting inspections on fuel delivery vehicles in Garrett County, Maryland, near the Mason-Dixon Line. On Feb. 6 agents stopped the vehicle Swank was operating at routes 40 and 219 in Keysers Ridge, Maryland. Agents inspected the truck and discovered untaxed, dyed fuel in the propulsion tank, which is a violation of state law. According to the release, Swank admitted to making a fuel delivery at a nearby location in Maryland.
Under Maryland law, diesel fuel that is dyed red is reserved for off-highway use on farms and construction sites, and for home heating purposes, according to the office. It is exempt from the state’s motor fuel tax of 36.05 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.
Authorities seized the vehicle and found documents indicating multiple Maryland fuel deliveries. The value of the untaxed fuel has not been determined. The investigation is continuing.
“Our FED agents are on the job round-the-clock to catch tax cheats who don’t want to play by the rules like hard-working Maryland businesses and families do,” Franchot said in the release. “I commend them for their diligence and for partnering with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division troopers from the Maryland State Police in stopping trucks carrying untaxed fuel in Maryland.”
Laurel Fuel Co.’s attorney, Marc Valentine, said late Wednesday that the company is bonded in Maryland, “began the appropriate licensing process in Maryland almost one year ago and has made every attempt to comply with the licensing requests.”
“Laurel has paid the tax due on the fuel sold in Maryland and at no time did Laurel defraud or attempt to defraud the state of maryland,” he wrote in an email.
Valentine said the off-road fuel found in the delivery truck’s fuel tank was the result of a mistake made by the driver as the driver was switching delivering tanks.
“A small amount of red fuel was placed in the tank,” he wrote. “Laurel does not use off road fuel in its trucks and does report its motor fuels through IFTA via the Pa (Department) of Revenue. Laurel has appealed (the) confiscation and decision of the Comptroller. Laurel prides (itself) on operating a legal business and paying all taxes. Laurel denies the allegations.”