By Jamie Leary
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities in Boulder say they have busted a skimming ring that victimized people in Colorado and several other states.
Nine people are in custody and three other suspects remain at large. Most involved are Cuban nationals, according to the indictment that was announced Thursday morning.
“It start off they’d fly from Miami, rent a car here and then they would hit a lot of the gas stations on the beltways. Your upper-middle class neighborhoods,” said Detective Chris Fiegel.
Fiegel has been working for the Boulder County Sheriff’s office for 18 years. He says this is the biggest operation he has brought down in his career.
“It’s an epidemic. This crew is really prolific in it. I know there’s still stuff going on,” said Fiegel, “They’re always changing their technology. I don’t see this being the end of it hopefully we can knock it down a little bit but we always need to be vigilant in watching our credit watching.”
The group allegedly operated out of Miami. They would fly people to cities including Denver, Cleveland and Chicago and have those people place skimmers on fuel pumps at gas stations.
“They would then use the data to produce cloned credit cards which were subsequently used to make fraudulent purchases against the victim’s credit and bank accounts,” officials with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a prepared statement.
Police say the criminals stole an average of $2.5 million per week while they were operating. They say there are victims from all across the Denver metro area, and that across the state there were 2,300 victims identified. A total of 8,000 victims have been identified across the country.
“These guys would get into the pumps so most consumers would never actually see any intrusion. They were actually taping the pump back up with that ribbon tape so you wouldn’t even know the pump was compromised,” said Feigel.
Fiegel spent 16 months tracking the suspects. The problem, he says, is that many victims weren’t reporting the crime to police.
Only to their credit card companies. For instance, out of 500 victims in Boulder, only four people reported the crime to law enforcement making the criminals difficult to track.
The other problem- advancements in technology.
“They went to Bluetooth, so now they weren’t having to get back into the pumps again so that made it harder to catch them,” said Fiegel, “They could pull up and download the data to their iPhones.”
The group was also allegedly involved in an international money laundering ring that the Secret Service has been investigating.
The following people are in custody as part of the indictment:
– Ranset Rodriguez-Martinez
– Yaniris Alfonso
– Jose Iglesia Edelberto Hernandez
– Luis Enrique Jimenez-Gonzalez
– Yadian Hernandez
– Lester Castaneda De La Torre
– Eddy Pimentel-Vila
– Yonasky Rosa
The following suspects are still at-large:
– Juan Carlos Banos
– Alejandro Moises
– Carlos Rodriguez-Martinez
Police said Rodriguez-Martinez has strong ties to Aurora as well as the Las Vegas area.
Detective Fiegel says he hopes more gas stations invest in tamper-proof security measures because the security tape has proven ineffective.
In the meantime, Fiegel says there are measures you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
“Either pay inside or use the pumps closer to the building because most clerks can see that and they [skimmer ring] tended to target the pumps that weren’t visible to the store,” Fiegel said, “Once you’re a victim, report it to law enforcement because sometimes we may be working on something and it helps us tie that together.”
Anyone with information about the suspects who are at large is asked to contact one of the following investigators:
– Detective Chris Fiegel, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, 303-441-4763
– Special Agent Paul Cruz, FBI Cleveland Office, 216-622-6733, firstname.lastname@example.org
– Special Agent Todd Porinsky, Secret Service, Cleveland Office, 216-750-2058
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.