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Troopers: Stakeout leads to arrests in gas pump scheme

Troopers: Stakeout leads to arrests in gas pump scheme

Skimming devices found in September at several gas stations
Troopers: Stakeout leads to arrests in gas pump scheme
Yudiel Ceballos (left) and Yuny Rodriguez Hurtado.
Photographer: Provided

FONDA — The discovery of a gas pump credit card skimming device and a subsequent stakeout led to the arrest of two Florida men this week on multiple charges, state police said.

The arrests follow the discovery of multiple such devices at several Montgomery County gas stations in September. 

State police arrested the pair early Wednesday morning as they returned to download the information stored on the secretly placed devices, authorities said.

Police charged Yudiel Ceballos, 31, of Opa-Locka, Florida, and Yuny Rodriguez Hurtado, 29, of Miami, with charges that include first-degree criminal tampering.

The two are accused of placing the devices at the station at some point recently. A police release did not identify the station.

The devices are electronic credit card readers that thieves place inside pumps and use to capture credit card information from customers. They can impact both gas pumps and ATMs.

The recent devices were discovered and made inoperable. Police then waited and watched, state police said.

"The two men were observed by police as they attempted to download credit card information from the skimming devices they had left on the pumps," a state police news release reads. "They were subsequently stopped and taken into custody by state police."

Inside their car, troopers found a trove of related illegal items, including other skimming devices, a computer used to download information from the devices, forged credit cards and burglar tools. 

In the September incidents, Montgomery County officials asked the public to be watchful for such devices after finding them at three county gas stations in previous weeks.

County weights and measures officials had been on the lookout for the devices for more than a year, officials said. They got a notification Sept. 7 from a credit card fraud department about an Amsterdam station.

Further checks discovered devices at two other gas stations in the county. In all, officials found and removed them at two Amsterdam stations and the Fonda Mobil. Officials discovered at least one of the stations after an FBI alert concerning a Northeast skimming ring.

The devices are difficult to detect as they are inside the pump, officials have said. A theory is that the thieves gain access to the pumps in the overnight hours and installed the devices. Officials did not reference any tamper seals, which are often placed to alert whether a key door has been opened.

All those devices were removed by authorities and sent for further testing, officials have said. Montgomery County District Attorney Kelli McCoski said Thursday that it is unclear if the two men arrested this week are connected to the previous incidents.

Officials recommend customers look for anything that appears off and if anything appears tampered with, alert an employee or police.

County officials have also recommended residents regularly check their accounts, or pay for gas inside stations with either their cards or cash to avoid the outside card reader.

In all, Ceballos and Hurtado also face one count each of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree criminal tampering, computer trespass, fourth-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree unlawful possession of a skimmer device, possession of burglar tools and unlawful possession of personal identification information.

They were arraigned Wednesday night in Mohawk Town Court and ordered held on $50,000 bail.

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