Avossa mistakenly announces arrests in probe of $513K in missing gas

Hernan Ramos wears the WTC medallion he recieved as a first responder during 911 under his badge that he wears now as a school police officer for the Palm Beach County School District. Ray Graham/The Palm Beach Post.
File photo

UPDATE: School district officials say they have identified two suspects who they say stole gas from the county’s public school system but have not yet arrested them.

Superintendent Robert Avossa, who announced the arrests this morning, was under the mistaken impression that they had already been charged and booked, officials said.

It turns out the suspects have yet to be arrested, said Amity Chandler, the school district’s communications chief.

ORIGINAL STORY: Two people have been arrested on charges of stealing gas from Palm Beach County’s public school system after an investigation into $513,000 worth of gas taken from fuel sites during off-hours, school district officials announced this morning.

It turned out that one of the suspects also stole a school district-owned pickup truck, Superintendent Robert Avossa said.

“We did find one person who not only stole fuel but also a truck, and they’ve been caught and arrested,” he said.

Avossa declined to name the suspects and did not say if both are school district employees. District officials said they would release more details later today.

A school district audit released in October found that $513,000 worth of gas was taken from school district fuel sites during off-hours over a three-year period.

Because there were no logs or cameras at the sites, auditors were unable to determine what the fuel was used for, prompting a criminal investigation to determine whether any was taken improperly.

PBC School Superintendent Robert Avossa on the first day of the 2015-16 school year. School bus delays were rampant in the first weeks of the year. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Avossa said that the investigation revealed that much of the fuel in question had been taken during regular hours by school bus drivers but that a logging system erroneously recorded them as overnight fill-ups.

But the investigation also found evidence that at least two people had stolen fuel, he said.

School board members are expected to be briefed on the investigation at a board meeting on Wednesday.

The October audit recommended installing cameras and requiring staff to complete fuel logs during off hours.

In a statement at the time, the school district said that cameras would soon be installed at the sites and “stricter protocols” will be put in place.

Check back for updates on this breaking story.

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