Six residents of Florida caught seeking to retrieve two so-called credit card skimming devices attached to a gasoline station’s pumps near Harahan made dozens of counterfeit gasoline, credit and gift cards before Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested them over the weekend, authorities said Monday.
Deputies booked five of the six on 98 counts each of abusing a monetary instrument. They were: Jesus Enrique Gonzalez Torres, 23; Orlando Guillen Diaz, 29; Yoetnis Vazquez Pedrosa, 30; Luis Rivera Garcia, 26; and Juliet Perez, 22.
Yiliam Torres, 23, was booked on 58 counts of abusing a monetary instrument, which is punishable with fines of between $5,000 and $1 million as well as between six months and 10 years in prison.
All six also were jailed on counts of computer fraud and violations of the state’s anti-skimming law, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies made the arrests in the case after a cashier at the Danny & Clyde’s store at 5861 Citrus Blvd. discovered two skimming devices that didn’t appear to belong to the business attached to gasoline pumps.
After the Sheriff’s Office was called, Sgt. Stanley Brown and Detective Carl Koppeis reviewed Danny & Clyde’s surveillance video, which showed a minivan pulling into the store’s parking lot about 90 minutes after it had closed late Friday night.
The van pulled up to two pumps, and at each, a man stepped out of the vehicle and lingered before driving away, the video showed.
The Sheriff’s Office confiscated the card skimmers as evidence, concluding that whoever had installed them somehow had unlocked the gasoline pumps and attached the devices to the electronic circuitry.
They did that to electronically capture information that could be used to produce fake cards for various purchases, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Late Saturday night, Brown and Koppeis returned to the store to conduct surveillance. About 10:25 p.m., a silver-colored 2015 Toyota Sienna van matching the vehicle seen in the earlier security camera footage pulled in and went up to the two pumps, the Sheriff’s Office said. Realizing the devices weren’t there anymore, a man who had stepped out of the van climbed back into it and drove northbound on nearby Dickory Avenue.
Brown and Koppeis stopped the van at Dock Street. Inside were Gonzalez, Vazquez, Rivera, Yiliam Torres and Perez, all from Tampa; as well as Guillen, from Miami Lakes, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The office said numerous credit cards and gift cards were found inside the van during an initial search, so all six occupants were taken in for questioning.
Investigators did not get much cooperation from the suspects, but they learned the group was staying at a La Quinta Inn in Metairie.
The Sheriff’s Office said it executed a search warrant on the group’s van and the motel room, finding numerous counterfeit cards, gift cards, an encoding machine, a laptop, a computer tablet, a skimming device, an embossing machine to stamp logos and several cellphones.
Deputies immediately jailed the six suspects at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna.
The Sheriff’s Office on Monday urged businesses with gasoline pumps to inspect them frequently and contact authorities in the event that anything looks out of place.
Anyone who can assist Brown and Koppeis in their investigation is asked to call (504) 364-5300.