MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade’s State Attorney’s office has busted a major fuel theft ring in South Florida.
Eleven people are being charged in an operation that pulled in at least $100,000 a month.
They did it by stealing credit card numbers, fuel, and then putting you at risk on the road.
This is the first time we are seeing what thieves are doing with the fuel; selling it back to gas stations.
The operation was run from a yard in Medley.
At the busy spot, no one noticed what was going on. Except for police.
The State Attorney’s Office announced the major sweep Tuesday.
It involved a network of organized crime to steal credit card numbers using skimmers.
They then put the credit card numbers on the magnetic strips of gift cards.
At gas stations, they swiped at the pump and filled up roughly $100 at a time.
In some cases, the fuel they were stealing would later be sold right back to the stations they were stealing from.
It all started with an anonymous tip to police more than a year ago.
The tipsters suggesting that Asbel Gutierrez Peres was up to no good.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle explained, “The police observed him going to three different gas stations…filling up his truck using fraudulent credit cards. And he would fill up his truck with almost 120 gallons that cost about $300.”
The only thing is his truck should have held only 34 gallons.
Detectives followed him to a yard in Medley where he unloaded the fuel concealed in compartments in his truck.
The fuel went into a tanker owned by South River Fuel.
The operation went on for more than year.
“They perpetrated an average of $98,000 of fraud a month.” Fernandez Rundle said. “And that’s likely just the tip of it. Over a year investigators watched as a network of people loaded fuel into an assortment of hidden containers. Inside a van. Underneath a landscaping truck. They even converted a bus by stripping its seats and turning the floor into a giant fuel tanker. They drove around the county putting thousands of commuters in harm’s way every day.”
All of the vehicles came to the yard in Medley.
Investigators say South River Fuel then resold the fuel to gas stations, truckers, and car rental companies.
Jorge Guerra Victoria and Yadian Sosa own South River Fuel, which had no license to even handle fuel.
Sosa is under arrest. Victoria is believed to have fled to Cuba.
“We believe there are others, and that’s why this is so important. Maybe there are others that are going to think twice about this,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Most of those arrested are looking at up to 30 years with the Rico charge if convicted.
In recent years, legislators have been increasing the penalties for fuel theft.
CBS4’s David Sutta was told on Tuesday that in all likeliness, there are multiple organizations in South Florida doing the exact same operation.