PHOENIX - Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced a State Grand Jury indicted six men who are alleged to have been a part of an illegal credit card gas skimmer ring for fraudulent schemes and artifices, conspiracy, illegally conducting an enterprise, computer tampering, organized retail theft, and taking the identity of another person. Their alleged participation involved a scheme to purchase diesel fuel for resale with stolen credit card information between April 11, 2018, and December 20, 2018.
The investigation was performed by the Arizona Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (ADOT) in partnership with the Kroger Company Organized Retail Crime Team and the Attorney General’s Office. In February of 2018, ADOT Detectives discovered tractor trailers at a private storage lot being fueled from hidden auxiliary fuel tanks contained on the trucks. The investigation identified several individuals and seven load vehicles with auxiliary fuel tanks allegedly involved in the scheme.
The individuals are accused of obtaining stolen credit card information which was encoded onto a new card, and then used the card at the pump to purchase fuel. The indictment alleges that on 31 separate occasions, the enterprise used the credit card information of approximately 40 different individuals at 12 different gas stations in the Phoenix area including Circle K, Fry’s Fuel, Shell, and QuickTrip.
So far in 2019, 40 skimmers have been found in Arizona fuel dispensers and reported to the Arizona Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures.
Below are the booking photographs of the Defendants:
Bladimir Thomas Rodriguez
Jesus Chavez Cespedes
Rene Chavez Valdivia
Dadiel Lopez Garcia
All Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Harriss is prosecuting the case.
Copy of the indictment.
AG Brnovich provides the following tips for consumers to avoid becoming a victim of credit card skimmer fraud:
- Always use credit cards to pay for gas at the pump. If you have to use an ATM card, run it as credit.
- Wiggle the card scanner before you insert your card. If it is loose, move on (this tip also applies to ATMs).
- Some gas stations place security tags/tabs on the pump showing that it is secure. If the tag/tab is broken, move on. Also, look for any pry marks on the gas pump door or if the door is slightly open.
- Look at the surrounding credit card readers at other pumps to see if they look the same. Suspects will often use counterfeit stickers to cover the ones they break while installing a skimming device, so check the stickers on one or more adjacent pumps.
- Use pumps in well-lit areas that are positioned in a clear view of store employees. The scammers installing the devices usually will install a skimmer into the pumps farthest away from the attendant.
- Watch out for large vehicles such as SUVs, trucks, and vans that park in front of fuel pumps for long periods of time. Criminals have been known to use large vehicles to block the view of the dispenser from site employees while they install a skimming device.
- If concerned, pay inside or go to a different gas station.
- Report your concerns to station employees, law enforcement, and/or file a complaint online.
- Monitor this map on the Attorney General’s Website or Arizona Department of Weights and Measures website to identify where credit card skimmers have recently been found.
Routinely monitor your credit card and bank statements to look for any unauthorized or fraudulent charges.