FDACS Makes Three Arrests in Gas Pump Skimmer Investigation

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Feb 19, 2021

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) is announcing three arrests following an investigation into a credit card skimming operation in Marion County. On February 17, OALE investigators took Frank Benitez-LopezArmando Yeikel Carbonell-Rabi, and Royniel Fabelo-Cedeno into custody on an active arrest warrant.

“With so many ongoing challenges, the last thing Floridians need is to be preyed upon at the gas pump. That’s why our department and our Division of Consumer Services remain hard at work to keep Floridians from falling victim to credit card skimming,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “After a thorough investigation by our Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement investigators, arrests were made for unauthorized fuel pump entry, with one individual in possession of credit card skimming devices and counterfeit credit cards. I thank our Agricultural Law Enforcement officers and investigators for their vigilance in keeping Floridians protected when they need it most.”

Timeline and background information:

August 6, 2020: OALE investigators were made aware of the possible tampering of a fuel pump installed at a gas station in Marion County, Florida. Several male subjects were observed accessing the fuel pump in a suspicious manner. Investigators responded to the gas station and made contact with the male subjects.

February 15, 2021: Acting on information obtained during the investigation, OALE had an arrest warrant signed for the subjects by a judge in the required judicial circuit.

February 17, 2021: OALE investigators took the subjects into custody on the active arrest warrant.

Arrestee information:

Arrestee: Frank Benitez-Lopez, W/M DOB: 02-20-1989, Tampa, Florida 33614

Charges: 

  • One (1) count of Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device, per F.S.S 815.06, (2nd degree felony)
  • One (1) count of Criminal Mischief, per F.S.S. 806.13(1)(b)(3), (3rd degree felony)

Arrestee: Armando Yeikel Carbonell-Rabi, W/M DOB: 09-04-1991, Tampa, Florida 33615

Charges: 

  • One (1) count of Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device, per F.S.S 815.06, (2nd degree felony)
  • One (1) count of Criminal Mischief, per F.S.S. 806.13(1)(b)(3), (3rd degree felony)

Arrestee: Royniel Fabelo-Cedeno, W/M DOB: 06-18-1989, Tampa, Florida 33614

Charges: 

  • Three (3) counts of Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device, per F.S.S 815.06, (2nd degree felony)
  • Two (2) counts of Criminal Mischief, per F.S.S. 806.13(1)(b)(3), (3rd degree felony)
  • Four (4) counts of the Use of a Scanning Device, per F.S.S. 817.625(2)(a)(1), (3rd degree felony)
  • Twelve (12) counts of the Possession of a Skimming Device, per F.S.S 817.625(2)(c), (3rd degree felony)
  • Four (4) counts of Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device, per F.S.S 934.21, (3rd degree felony)

About Skimmers: Skimmers are small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first appeared in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since. FDACS’ Bureau of Standards inspects over 8,700 gas stations each year and has removed 4,860 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy. Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps, and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer. They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging. For more information visit FDACS.gov/skimmers. In September, FDACS has partnered with local law enforcement offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Volusia, Flagler, Orange, Sarasota, St. Johns, Broward, and Bay Counties to perform multiple successful gas pump skimmer sweeps of over 1,500 gas stations.

Consumer tips to avoid fraud at the pump:

  • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. If unsure, use another pump or pay inside with cash or a credit card.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.
  • Pay inside, not at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump — but it’s far less likely that a skimmer has been placed on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. Take the few extra minutes to pay inside with cash or a credit card to protect yourself from fraud.
  • Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight such as those around a corner or behind a building. Thieves placing skimmers are less likely to put them in pumps where the store attendant may catch them in the act.
  • Check card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

If consumers suspect a gas pump skimmer, they should contact FDACS — all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (in Spanish).

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