SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 3, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A newly unsealed federal indictment charges six people with conspiracy to steal money from customers at various gas stations in Utah and elsewhere.
“The indictment alleges the defendants and their co-conspirators executed the
conspiracy by using Bluetooth enabled skimming equipment that they installed on the
motherboard of the internal computer that controls the gas pumps,” says a statement released by the Department of Justice, District of Utah. “Victims of the alleged scheme lost at least $200,000.”
Charged in the indictment are Yosbel Delgado-Valdes, 40; Iraldo Pereda-Mendez, 32; Emmanuel Nina-Perez, 28; Jandry Artigas-Reyes, 35; and Yarislani Padron-Cruz, 35, all of Salt Lake City; and Yofre Napoleon Almonte, 47, a citizen of the Dominican Republic currently being held in the Davis County Jail on unrelated charges.
In addition to Almonte, who is not a U.S. citizen, three defendants are legal permanent residents of the United States, one is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and one has an application pending for legal permanent resident status, the statement says.
The skimming equipment contains a Bluetooth card reader/recorder that records
information – such as customers’ credit card numbers and the name and zip code associate with the card – from the magnetic strip of customers’ cards as the customers insert the cards into gas pumps, according to the indictment.
The defendants and their co-conspirators only needed to get within the necessary range of the Bluetooth skimming device to initiate a wireless Bluetooth connection to the device still inside the gas pump, the statement says.
The indictment alleges the defendants then downloaded the digital credit card or debit card information that had been captured and stored in their skimming devices. They were then able to use the captured data to create duplicate “cloned” cards encoded with the same data as the customers’ authentic credit or debit cards.
“After testing the cards, the defendants and their co-conspirators moved to what the
indictment calls the ‘cash out’ phase,” the DOJ statement says. “The ‘cash out’ phase generally involved large purchases of fuel, though they did make other purchases at gas stations and other retail stores.
“The fuel purchases were typically for vehicles they were driving, or for trusted associates/purchasers the defendants would meet, using the cloned cards to fill up their tanks. The defendants further used the cloned cards to fill external fuel tanks installed in the beds of their pickup trucks – later offloading that fuel into the tanks of semi trucks or into larger storage containers for future use or resale.”
Among the gas stations targeted by the group were a Tesoro in Sunset, Utah; a Texaco station in Scipio; an Exxon Mobil Common Cents in Bountiful; an Exxon Mobile Common Cents in Salt Lake City; Murphy Express in Riverton; and Home Depot in West Jordan.
U.S. Attorney John W. Huber released a statement on the case:
“Utah is a hotbed of fraud schemes,” he said. “I have directed prosecutors and investigative partners to pull out all of the stops in our combined efforts to take on those who victimize Utah residents with their fraud schemes. In this bank fraud ring, allegations suggest persistence, sophistication and organization on the part of the charged conspirators. Investigators and prosecutors have tried to match and surpass those characteristics in their efforts to bring this matter to justice in federal
Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel, Salt Lake City FBI, also released a statement:
“We all routinely fill up our gas tanks, which means any one of us could have been
victims of this alleged crime,” he said. “While the financial losses are significant, the victims are also left with the burden of taking the necessary steps to recover from the damage of identity theft. The FBI is committed to holding the alleged perpetrators accountable.
“We encourage the public to regularly check their bank statements and report fraud to local law enforcement or the FBI.”