A plague of diesel fuel thefts has hit agricultural sites in Tehama County where thousands of gallons of red dye diesel fuel has been stolen, reports the Tehama County Sheriff's Office, including 1,400 gallons from Crain Orchards valued at $2,800.
Through review of video surveillance sheriff's deputies have been able to identify Travis Eugene Banghart, 36, of Red Bluff as a suspect in the thefts, however, his whereabouts are unknown to law enforcement.
A search warrant for Banghart’s residence was served by the sheriff's office on Orange Street in Red Bluff where copious amounts of red dye diesel was reportedly located in the garage and around the property, stored in barrels and various plastic containers.
A livestock trailer, with diesel fuel on its floor and on the ground outside, outfitted with a makeshift electric fuel pump used to pump the stolen fuel into a large plastic container in the back was also located at the residence, according to the sheriff's office. The VIN number on the trailer had been ground off and painted over, and a California license plate mounted to the back of the trailer came back as stolen.
Tehama County Environmental Health and Code Enforcement was called to the scene to coordinate hazmat clean up and removal of the fuel.
Banghart was not at the home during the search, but was aware authorities were at the scene and spoke to them briefly through his audio/video security system, the sheriff's office said. He was asked to return to the residence to be questioned about the trailer and fuel found at his home, but he refused the request.
Banghart is currently being investigated as a suspect in several recent fuel thefts and it is presumed he is avoiding law enforcement contact. He was arrested in September and booked into the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property.