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Oil boom sparks theft boom

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GARFIELD COUNTY, Okla. -- A northwest Oklahoma oil boom has drawn thieves to oil sites, spawning an investigation that stretches across the country.

Within just a matter of weeks, investigators said they have seen an alarming number of oil pumps disappear.

The pumps are in such high demand that companies that manufacture them can't even keep up, a dilemma of which thieves are taking advantage.

Spend any time in rural Oklahoma and you will hear the repetitive beat of an oil pump, music to oil producers' ears and money for some very knowledgable thieves.

"These guys are professionals. They work in the oilfield," Garfield County Deputy Troy Bush said. "They do this everyday. So for them to come out here and take these motors, in 20 or 30 minutes they're done."

It is not a long time to steal the main component of these large oil pumps.

However, just a few days without the pump means a lot of lost profit.

"Once they're stolen, production stops until they can be replaced," Garfield County Undersheriff Jerry Niles said.

One of the sites targeted produces about 28 barrels of oil a day, and at nearly $91 a barrel, that is a loss of more than $2,500 per day for just this particular pump.

Used motors can cost as much as $25,000 and investigators said they are being stolen and resold to oil equipment companies and equipment auctions.

They have even found them on Craigslist.

"The longer it's down, the longer that well is not producing oil," Niles said. "For the royalty owners, the producers and the oil company, that's lost profit, lost money."

The pumps are being sold all over the country and are hard to identify unless they are marked with serial numbers or an ID stamp.