NEWS

IPSO busts largest gas skimming operation in state history

Andrew Green agreen@postsouth.com
IPSO officials busted the largest gas skimming operation in state history

Deputies with the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office have arrested two Florida residents and charged them with monetary instrument abuse and access device fraud in connection with what is being called the largest gas skimming operation in Louisiana history.

Early Thursday (Feb. 9) morning, Iberville Parish Sheriff’s deputies made a traffic stop that resulted in the discovery and seizure of five internal gas skimmers and equipment used to create fake credit cards.

Deputies arrested father and son Serafin Fuentes, 54, and Juan Fuentes, 28, of Miami, Florida.

“This is the new moneymaker for the criminal industry today,” Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said.  “This is a large scale operation.  It’s going to be multi-parish, multi-state.”

Deputies called in the Secret Service to assist in the investigation due to the magnitude of the discovery.  A representative said each skimmer can hold up to 800 to 1,000 credit cards with each credit given a minimum worth of $500.

The Secret Service estimates the equivalence of their discovery to include $2 million worth of theft.  The operation was equated to setting out crab traps.  The father and son team would give each skimmer a numerical value and install them inside gas pumps within 30 seconds.

Over time, each skimmer would fill its memory with credit card information.  Unsuspecting customers would swipe their credit card and the device would steal the bank card information which would later be duplicated by the criminals.

The Secret Service also discovered gas skimmers in areas around the state including Bunkie, Ville Platte, Alexandria and Lafayette.

Officials advise customers to always use your card as a credit card when pumping gas and never use it as debit.  The criminals would be able to access more bank information with a stolen pin number.  You should check your bank account once a week to be aware of possible fraudulent charges.

“We need to make sure we stay ahead,” Stassi said.  “This is what we are fighting every day.  They are working every day to outwit us and outwit these banks.  We are working every day to make it better. It’s never going to stop.

“This may just be the tip of the people we can arrest.”