When skimming goes beyond ID theft

Man suspected of stealing diesel fuel from several gas stations

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

WALLER COUNTY, Texas - What began with reports of credit card skimming at Waller County gas stations, led to the arrest of man suspected of stealing diesel fuel from several gas stations.

Investigators said the case highlights how skimming can go well beyond the theft of personal information.

Sheriff’s officials said Livan Miranda-Garcia, 49, was using a modified delivery truck and cloned gift cards from Whataburger, Walmart and other stores to steal diesel fuel. Investigator Brian Dasher said Miranda-Garcia also took great care to make his white box truck appear legitimate. Dasher said Miranda-Garcia kept several large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines in the back of the truck.

“So somebody, a deputy, a trooper, an officer stops on the side of the road, what they're going to see is a male with a clipboard, invoices and appliances in the back,” Dasher said.

Dasher said the large appliances helped conceal a false wall that contained two large fuel tanks. He said the truck’s gas tank had also been modified to allow fuel to be pumped into these hidden tanks.

“What he's doing, is all he does, is he pulls up to the pump, pumps into his vehicle's factory-installed tank,” Dasher said. “We knew that he pumped more diesel than that tank would hold.”

Dasher said the truck’s tank holds 38 gallons of diesel, but during surveillance investigators noticed Miranda-Garcia pumping 50 gallons into the truck.

“We're watching him from station to station to station,” said Dasher.

Court records show when Miranda-Garcia was arrested, he had 34 cloned gift cards on him containing the personal information of at least 10 people. Dasher said criminals can encode stolen personal information on to almost any card with a magnetic stripe.

“They go in and grab a bunch of gift cards that haven’t been activated yet and transfer the stolen information onto those cards,” said Dasher.

Miranda-Garcia has been charged with evading motor fuel tax, fraud and unlawful use of a criminal instrument.

Many skimming incidents happen at gas stations because pumps require customers to swipe a credit or debit card instead of using the computer chip to verify a transaction. Most “skimming” devices are hidden inside the pumps, but there are a ways to spot what the criminals don't want you to see.

Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.