Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today that a multi-agency investigation, led by his Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, successfully dismantled an extensive skimming and fuel theft ring in Kissimmee. A skimmer is a device placed in or on a gas pump to steal financial information when consumers pay with a debit or credit card. The criminal enterprise used skimmers to produce counterfeit credit cards to illegally purchase fuel. The fuel was stored in “bladder trucks,” which are vehicles retrofitted with concealed tanks to transport large amounts of gasoline, to be sold on the black market.
“Keeping Florida safe is our top priority, and we will not tolerate criminals that aim to scam Floridians and visitors out of their hard-earned money,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “I applaud our agricultural law enforcement officers for their work to protect Florida, and I thank the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the Secret Service for their critical support.”
Agricultural law enforcement officers, with assistance from Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Secret Service task force, arrested Vagda Menendez Hernandez (45), Yoel Torres (44) and Osvel Aquino Lopez (48) of Kissimmee for the possession and use of skimming devices and credit card re-encoders, which were used to steal financial information and manufacture counterfeit credit cards.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement secured a search warrant following a long-term investigation. During the search of the Kissimmee residence, law enforcement officers discovered multiple illegal devices used to defraud Floridians and steal financial information, including: three credit card skimming devices, 11 scanning devices, a card re-encoder, gas pump security seals and more than 50 counterfeit credit cards.
Investigators also seized Torres’ Ford F350, which was used store the stolen fuel, and Menendez Hernandez’s Mercedes C-300, which was purchased with funds obtained through the criminal enterprise.
Aquino Lopez, Manendez Hernandez and Torres were arrested and each booked into the Osceola County Jail on the following charges:
- 11 counts of using a scanning device or skimming device to obtain payment card information, a third-degree felony;
- One count of using a re-encoder to place fraudulent credit card information on a counterfeit card, a third-degree felony;
- Three counts of possession of a credit card skimming device, a third-degree felony;
- One count of falsely making counterfeit credit card, a third-degree felony;
- One count of falsely embossing a credit card, a third-degree felony;
- One count of dealing in credit cards of another, a third-degree felony;
- One count of possession of credit card making equipment, a third-degree felony;
- One count of credit card forgery, a third-degree felony; and
- One count of possession of 50 or more counterfeit credit cards, a first-degree felony.
Torres faces additional charges, including: one count of unlawful conveyance of fuel, which is a third-degree felony; and two counts of obtaining fuel fraudulently, which is a second-degree felony.
The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement protects Florida’s agriculture and consumers through law enforcement in support of all the regulatory aspects of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For more information, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.