At first, it only seemed like he was looking to steal diesel fuel. Then, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said, it turned out he already had.
Donald Fowler, 47, of Mulberry, was arrested Saturday night after deputies pulled him over while hauling a 500-gallon plastic tank with no license plate or tail lights near Putnam Citrus Groves in Bartow, the agriculture business owned by the family of Adam Putnam, according to an arrest report.
Deputies said Fowler was driving without a license, and a fuel transfer pump, bolt cutters, gloves and pipe wrench were found in the silver Saturn SUV he was driving. Deputies said he told them he was in the area looking for diesel fuel to steal.
At the time, Fowler was charged with possession of burglary tools with intent to use, driving an unregistered motor vehicle and knowingly driving with a license suspended or revoked.
Two days later, Danny Yost from Putnam Citrus Groves told the Sheriff’s Office someone had cut a chain to a fuel shed, cut the lock of a fuel tank and stole 60 gallons of fuel. Recognizing the similarities, the Sheriff’s Office interviewed Fowler while he was in jail. Deputies said Fowler then admitted to stealing the fuel.
He was additionally charged with trespassing, petit theft and burglary.
Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said diesel theft is a growing problem in agricultural areas.
"Diesel fuel thefts are an ongoing problem in our agricultural areas," he said. "Our deputy did a great job preventing another theft from happening."
The Sheriff’s Office said Fowler has an extensive criminal history including eight felony charges, 21 misdemeanor charges and two stints in Florida State prison.
Daniel Figueroa IV can be reached at [email protected] Follow @danuscripts