Charges in gas pump credit card skimming; Commerce Department announces results of crackdown
Three Tampa, Fla. men were charged with numerous counts of identity theft and possession of burglary tools in a case of credit card skimmers inserted into gas pumps at a South Minneapolis service station, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.
Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, at the same news conference, announced that his agency launched a statewide crackdown on credit card skimmers at gas pumps. Since March, Commerce Department inspectors have found a total of 28 skimmers installed in gas pumps at various locations in the state. These devices are now part of active criminal investigations by the Commerce Fraud Bureau in partnership with other law enforcement agencies.
“Credit card skimmers hidden in gas pumps have been a growing problem in other parts of the country,” said Rothman. “This case shows it is also an emerging threat to Minnesota consumers. That is why the Commerce Department has made it a priority to inspect gas pumps statewide for skimmers, with our Fraud Bureau pursuing criminal investigations whenever skimmers are found.”
In the current case, Roilan Garriga, 20, Asleys Acosta, 28, and Wilbur Perez-Soca, 24, all of Tampa, were charged late Wednesday. They are expected to make their first appearance Thursday afternoon.
“As Commissioner Rothman has said, this is an emerging problem in Minnesota and these three men are not the first we have charged in Hennepin County,” Freeman said. “They do follow the pattern we have seen of being from out-of-state, setting up in Minnesota for several weeks and creating dozens of credit and debit cards in the names of real victims. If we can prove the case and obtain convictions, we will do everything we can to maximize their prison time.”
According to the criminal complaint, about 2:45 a.m. Saturday, a resident of an apartment next door to the BP station at 2000 Third Ave. S., called police and reported that three men in a white van appeared to be tampering with one of the gas pumps. Police arrived and arrested Garriga, Acosta and Perez-Soca.
When officers looked into the passenger side of the van, they could see a computer, five cell phones and a small yellow drill, with a bit that fit the gas pump so that the pump door could be opened. The officers also found two credit card skimmers, one for each pump in the two-sided gas pump, the complaint states. Video from the station showed the van pulling up to the pump and Garriga and Acosta opening and manipulating something in the gas pump.
Police also found more than 20 debit or prepaid credit cards in the van, each of which was encoded with personal information from real Hennepin County residents. The criminal complaint lists 10 of those victims and where the cards were used and how much was purchased at stores and restaurants throughout the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. The investigation is continuing into the other 13 cards, according to the complaint.
Commissioner Rothman pointed out that in addition to regularly inspecting retail gas pumps throughout the state, the Commerce Department is conducting “skimmer sweeps” with more frequent, targeted inspections at locations that may be at higher risk. The department is also working with gas station operators on training and guidance about how to secure their pumps against tampering.
Garriga Criminal Complaint (PDF)
Acosta Criminal Complaint (PDF)
Perez-Soca Criminal Complaint (PDF)
Watch the press conference.