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Three Florida men arrested at Minneapolis gas station are charged with identity theft in credit card skimming case

11/17/2016 12:48:17 PM

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman today announced criminal charges against three Florida men for stealing consumers’ credit card information by using skimming equipment hidden in gas pumps. They were arrested over the weekend while tampering with a pump at a Minneapolis gas station.

Wilbur Aramando Perez-Soca (DOB: 9/19/92), Asleys Acosta (DOB: 11/19/88) and Roilan Garriga (DOB: 12/10/96), all from Tampa, are each charged with four felony counts of identity theft and one felony count of possession of burglary or theft tools. They are currently in custody in Hennepin County, with bail set at $200,000 each.

“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.”

“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,” said Freeman.  “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.”

In March this year, the Commerce Department launched a crackdown on credit card skimmers at gas pumps. The Commerce Weights & Measures Division is responsible for regularly inspecting retail pumps throughout the state. These inspections traditionally focus on pump accuracy, safety and fuel quality. But they now also include checking for evidence of credit card skimmers or tampering.

In addition, Commerce Department inspectors are 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.

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.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the Minneapolis case:

On the early morning of Saturday, November 12, a witness called 911 to report that three men were tampering with the internal electronics of a gas pump at a BP station located at 2000 Third Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Police responded and found the three men at the scene. In plain view in the front passenger area of their minivan was a computer, five cell phones and a small drill.  Officers tested the drill on the gas pump. The drill was equipped with a special bit that fit the gas pump and opened the door to expose the pump’s internal electronics.

Inside the open pump, police officers found two credit card skimming devices, one installed on each side of the pump.

Following the arrest of the three men, the gas station pumps were inspected by a private technician and an inspector from the Commerce Department. In addition to the two skimming devices found by police in the pump opened by the defendants, the inspection found two similar skimming devices in other pumps. These four skimmers require reopening the pump to download the stolen credit card data. However, the inspection also found a fifth skimmer with wireless capabilities that can transmit stolen data to a nearby location without the need to reopen the pump.

In searches of the defendants and the minivan, more than 20 debit cards and prepaid credit cards were recovered. An analysis revealed that they had been encoded with stolen credit card information belonging to local residents and that they had been illegally used for purchases at various retail businesses in the Twin Cities area.

Investigators have so far spoken to 11 local victims. All still had physical possession of their credit cards, but most did not know their card information had been compromised.  After reviewing their accounts, they discovered unauthorized transactions during the previous several days. Most of these transactions occurred at Twin Cities area retailers.

Additional cards were found in the minivan, and further investigation is likely to result in identifying additional victims whose credit card information was stolen and used for fraudulent purchases. 

Commerce is here to help

If you have a question or concern about a possible scam or fraud, contact the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

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