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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Several people have been arrested in connection with a gas theft ring.

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Police say their operation put the lives of innocent drivers in danger.

Making their way in front of a judge, four of the 13 men arrested in what’s dubbed “Operation Fill ‘Er Up” head to court, the rest bonded of out jail after they were brought there overnight.

13 men arrested in what’s dubbed “Operation Fill ‘Er Up” appeared before a Miami-Dade County judge on Thursday. (Source: Miami-Dade Corrections)

Investigators say this was an elaborate scheme.  It included trucks that may look normal but police tell us they’re disguised to hid massive fuel tanks to hold fraudulently purchased gas.

“Some of these people have, as you’ve seen before, they have like trees on top of them making it seem like a landscaping company, some have very dark tinted windows, some have tires, rugs, all sorts of things they can think of to conceal these trucks,” explained Argemis Colome with Miami-Dade Police Dept.

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The way the scheme works, according to police, is that stolen credit card numbers are used to buy massive amounts of gas.

That gas is pumped into the hidden tanks, then it’s taken to a fuel yard in Hialeah where it’s sold.

“The gas is being sold to these sites for about half of what they pay for at regular pumps and the site makes about a 50 percent mark up to the other people who knowingly go to these sites to purchase fuel illegally,” Colome said.

In court, prosecutors said this is much more than a financial crime.

These trucks with huge concealed gas tanks are described as rolling bombs.

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“This is a very dangerous situation,” the prosecutor said,  “because, God forbid, somebody gets into a traffic crash with one of these vehicles, they’re described as like a bomb on wheels. It’s extraordinary dangerous.”

Ted Scouten