A former D.C. fire employee has pleaded guilty to fraud, for using a taxpayer-funded gas card to buy more than $2,600 in gasoline for personal use. Terrell McCray, 31, was dismissed from his position as a staff assistant with the agency shortly after his case was revealed in a February report by the News-4 I-Team. McCray will face up to six months in prison when he is sentenced in May.
In February, the I-Team reported McCray was the subject of a federal investigation by the inspector general of the U.S. General Services Administration. Records reviewed by the I-Team said McCray used some of the unlawfully purchased gasoline to fill his personal Jaguar, while also reselling some of the gasoline to others. The federal investigators noticed suspicious purchases linked to McCray’s card, court records show. They also reported evidence of the crime was captured on gas station surveillance cameras.
McCray declined to comment when the I-Team requested an interview outside D.C. Superior Court.
Earlier this month, a second former D.C. fire employee pleaded guilty to fraud for misusing her taxpayer-funded gas card. Kimberley Pinkney faces sentencing later this year. She is expected to avoid jail time, but will likely be ordered to repay the government for the $11,000 in gasoline she admitted unlawfully buying for her personal use.
Pinkney also declined to comment to the I-Team.
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Federal workers have illegally purchased more than $2.4 million worth of gasoline since 2010 by swiping taxpayer-funded government fleet cards for gas they used in their personal cars.
A review of federal audits and court records by the News4 I-Team found about 260 cases of gas theft by government workers nationwide in the past five years, including several cases in the Washington, D.C. area. Taxpayers have been fleeced in the process.
The U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees a federal government fleet of 150,000 automobiles, has distributed 590,385 gasoline purchase cards to federal employees and some D.C. municipal employees. In some of the cases reviewed by the News4 I-Team, low-ranking workers swiped their fleet cards, filled the tank of their personal cars or cars belonging to friends and associates, and falsified some of the paperwork or odometer readings required to mask the crime.
In a Virginia case, a jury convicted Lanaire White, 38, of conspiring to steal almost $300,000 in gasoline, using fleet cards obtained from the Fort Monroe Army base. Federal investigators said White resold some of the gasoline he purchased with the government cards and pocketed the cash. He’s serving a six-year sentence in the Edgefield federal prison in South Carolina.
GSA Deputy Inspector General Bob Erickson said his agents have investigated gas theft cases nationwide. "They're all over the country," he said. "(Thieves) are everywhere the government does business and needs cars to do its business."
Two employees of the D.C. fire department are also under investigation for illegally using federal fleet cards to purchase gasoline for their personal cars. Kimberly Pinkney, a veteran D.C. fire inspector, is accused of using her government fleet card to buy $11,334 of gasoline for her personal Chevy Tahoe, including at the BP gas station at 823 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, according to court records. The I-Team was unable to reach Pinkney for comment. She was placed on administrative leave after federal investigators questioned her. She has since resigned her job, according to a fire department spokesman.
Terrell McCray, a staff assistant in the D.C. fire department, is accused of illegally buying $2,637 in gasoline using a federal fleet card in recent months. In court filings, federal agents accuse McCray of filling his personal Jaguar with taxpayer-funded gasoline. They said he also resold some of the gas he purchased with federal fleet cards, sometimes for 50 percent of the price at the pump. McCray was placed on administrative leave.
The I-Team asked McCray about his gas purchases and the criminal charges he now faces in D.C. Superior Court. He declined our requests for comment and smacked away the I-Team’s microphone. He waived a preliminary hearing in his case Tuesday morning. A grand jury is expected to consider the case in the coming weeks. McCray has pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.
GSA Office of the Inspector General Special Agent Eric Radwick said the government fleet cards are designed to look noticeably different from a traditional credit card. Radwick said workers suspected of misusing fleet cards often claim they simply mistook the fleet card for their own personal credit cards.
Radwick said his teams conduct undercover surveillance to catch suspected gas thieves in the act of stealing. His team also has access to a confidential database of federal fleet card purchases, which list every purchase of taxpayer-funded gasoline made with a GSA government fleet card. "Generally we don't catch (thieves) on the first tank," Radwick said. "They've been doing it for a bit."