Worst. Crook. Ever.

For weeks, the Austin area was rocked (in much the same way that Barry Manilow audiences get “rocked”) by the daring exploits of a late-night gas thief. Disguising himself as a cleaning attendant, this latter-day Robin Hood liberated thousands of gallons of unleaded and diesel from gas stations and redistributed it among The People. Fat cat oil executives were beginning to feel the pinch, and whispered amongst themselves how long would it be before the general public followed the Pied Piper of Petroleum into civil disobedience. Their usurious profits were flowing into the back of a Chevy pick-up, and something needed to be done, no matter what the cost …

Bumbling Criminal at LargeAt least, that’s how my made-for-TV screenplay was progressing until Austin’s gas thief was identified and revealed to be just another rube in search of a record. Shawn William Hoskins of Round Rock was ratted out by a Crime Stoppers tip after selling gas from his own driveway. Hoskins must have read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown and figured that hiding 55-gallon drums in plain sight would fool the bumbling detectives, but alas, his plan went the way of yet another Wilford Wiggins scheme.

In addition to violating the old Boy Scout maxim of “don’t shit where you eat,” Shawn Hoskins, Master Criminal, also made a few other rookie mistakes that guaranteed his reservation at the Travis Williamson County Big House. Hoskins’ attempt at disguise apparently included shaving his moustache and coloring his hair, because that worked out pretty well for Scott Peterson.

Even with his dime-store disguise, our gas man in Round Rock might have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. While being interviewed by Travis County Sheriffs, Hoskins’ teenaged daughter walked in and asked Dad why he had dyed his hair. She is also reputed to have rolled her eyes and commented that “reddish-brown is SOOOOO last week.” As if having a teenager isn’t punishment enough …

A warrant has been served and Hoskins is still at large. If you see anyone matching my Photoshopped rendition of Hoskins in “disguise,” call 911 or Detective Carri Turner at 854-7408, or CrimeStoppers at 472-8477.

Update: sleep well oil barrons, the gas thief suspect is under arrest.

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