MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you were driving northbound on Florida’s Turnpike near Kendall Drive Tuesday morning, you probably saw a large black truck pulled over by Florida Highway Patrol troopers.
FHP troopers had stopped a Cape Coral man, who is currently facing serious charges, for having an illegal 110-gallon fuel container in the back of the truck.
FHP troopers say they are alarmed by this case because they say they also discovered some elaborate equipment that is used in installing a credit card and debit card skimmer inside gasoline pumps that are designed to steal your personal identity information.
They told CBS4’S Peter D’Oench that investigators will now try to determine how many people were victimized through the identity theft.
The arrest report says a trooper had been monitoring traffic on Kendall Drive near the turnpike when he noticed a black Ford pick-up truck with an obscured license plate.
The trooper said he noticed a large fuel bladder in the bed of the truck, as he attempted to overtake the vehicle.
A traffic stop was then conducted on the inside northbound lanes of the highway. The driver was identified as Edrey Santo Rojas, 34.
The arrest report said the fuel bladder was approximately a quarter of the way full. Police said it has an approximate total capacity of about 110 gallons.
“I could smell a strong odor of gasoline coming from the vehicle. Also, while at the driver’s side, I could see an electric fuel pump, a long hose with a nozzle, and wiring inside the bed of the truck,” said the trooper in the arrest report.
The arrest report says a “probable cause vehicle search” revealed a gas pump skimmer, credit card reader, and a magnetic strip credit card reader/writer encoder mag.
FHP says these items were located inside a bag of clothes that belong to Rojas.
D’Oench spoke with the troopers involved in the stop.
Trooper Alexis Otano said, “This man told me he worked for Comcast but he could not prove that. On these skimmers once they have your information they will get a Walmart gift card or any gift card that they want that has a magnetic strip. And they will put that information in on the stolen identity of these people and use the cards to steal gas. So the gas is sold on the black market.”
“In this case the truck was very dangerous because there was a combination of truck exhaust and heat going right past the vapors and if one of these vehicles ever hit another vehicle, it could explode,” he said.
Trooper Lasso Silva said, “This is a big thing, stealing people’s identities. And a lot of time people don’t realize it. Plus these trucks with illegal tanks are ticking time bombs. You see a lot of trucks and you don’t realize that tool boxes are being used for the tanks. It’s a concealed fuel bladder.”
“A lot of these criminals usually work together with identity theft,” he said. “They usually send a female inside a store to distract the clerk and they do this overnight. A lot of this happens during a midnight shift. When the female distracts the clerk, they are out of view and they put the skimmer in the tank.”
Otano said, “They are now putting them inside the gas tanks not outside like before so it is harder to detect.”
Silva said, “When you go to the gas station try one to move your credit card reader around. Try and move it around so it is firm not loose.”
Rojas was charged with possession of an illegal fuel tank container, possession of a skimming device, and possession of two Florida driver’s licenses.
Rojas has an extensive criminal history. He was transported to TGK for processing.
His bond was set at $20,000 but a judge warned him that federal authorities would probably also get involved in the case because he was already on probation after serving 45 months in Georgia for credit card fraud. The judge found probable cause for the charges against him.
The arrest report listed his occupation as a handyman.
FHP says this is a growing problem in South Florida.
In the past month in Miami-Dade, 12 people have been arrested for possessing illegal gas tanks and identity theft.