Fayette County truck driver was evading state fuel taxes, Md. comptroller says |

Fayette County truck driver was evading state fuel taxes, Md. comptroller says

Stephen Huba
Comptroller of Maryland
Maryland authorities seized this Laurel Fuel Co. truck last week and cited the driver for carrying untaxed fuel.

A Fayette County man was cited last week for allegedly transporting untaxed, dyed fuel near the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line.

Eric C. Swank, 42, of Markleysburg, was driving a tanker truck for Laurel Fuel Co. on Feb. 6 when he was stopped by Maryland state troopers and agents with the Comptroller of Maryland, the comptroller’s office said. Laurel Fuel Co. is based in Rockwood, Somerset County.

Swank was stopped at the Keysers Ridge junction of U.S. Routes 40 and 219 in Garrett County, Md., the comptroller’s office said. Agents inspected the truck and discovered untaxed, dyed fuel in the truck’s gas tank, which is a violation of state law, the comptroller’s office said.

Under Maryland law, diesel fuel that is dyed red is reserved only for off-highway use on farms and construction sites and for home heating purposes. Some drivers attempt to use dyed fuel illegally because it is exempt from the state’s motor fuel tax, the comptroller’s office said. Diesel fuel currently is taxed in Maryland at 36.05 cents per gallon.

Using dyed fuel for such purposes is a form of tax evasion, said Chuck Ulm, assistant director of the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division, or FED.

Inspectors also learned that Laurel Fuel Co. is not licensed to sell fuel in Maryland, which is another form of tax evasion, Ulm said. Company officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Swank allegedly admitted to making a fuel delivery at a nearby location in Maryland, the comptroller’s office said. Documents indicating multiple fuel deliveries were recovered and seized as part of the inspection.

“This was really a two-pronged case — using dyed fuel in the gas tank and making taxable sales but with no license to remit that tax to the state,” Ulm said.

Swank was cited for operating a motor vehicle on a highway with dyed fuel, engaging in motor fuel business without a license, transporting motor fuel without a registration and unlawfully failing to have a copy of the loading ticket.

Agents and troopers seized the vehicle and the remaining fuel onboard and took it to a secured impound lot in Jessup, Md. The value of the untaxed fuel has not been determined.

“Our FED agents are on the job round-the-clock to catch tax cheats who don’t want to play by the rules,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “I commend them for their diligence and for partnering with … the Maryland State Police in stopping trucks carrying untaxed fuel in Maryland.”

Comptroller agents recently began conducting inspections on fuel delivery trucks operating in Garrett County based on a tip from the Comptroller’s Revenue Administration Division.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.