MIAMI, FLORIDA (Conspiracy Talk News) – At first glance, the only suspect in the Ford Expedition that Yoelkys Cuba Cardoso was driving were the windows that were too dark.
But when an agent of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) stopped Cardoso at Hialeah Gardens, he immediately smelled the pungent smell of diesel fuel coming out of the vehicle.
Hidden inside the SUV was a 150-gallon aluminium tank, hidden under a carpet, which had a pump and a fuel dispensing hose like any gas station.
Cardoso, 38, did not seem very concerned about the load he was carrying. “He was smoking a cigarette when I stopped it,” said FHP patrolman Alexis Otano.
In addition to the fuel tank, inside a panel, the FHP found 53 gift cards with numbers stolen from credit cards, which were suspected to be used to buy the product for the increasing black market fuel in Miami.
Cardoso is one more among the large number of individuals who have been arrested in the last two years stealing from legitimate gas stations, and represents a serious danger in the street.
The police estimate that every day, many vehicles that load gasoline into unsafe containers circulate through Southern Florida without anyone knowing, a time bomb waiting to happen.
“They are potential bombs,” said Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “It’s a real miracle that no serious accident has happened.”
In the last two years, the Miami-Dade state prosecutor’s office has indicted at least 31 Miami men who were detained with a fuel tank hidden in a vehicle. It is a third-degree felony that can be more serious if it is discovered that the suspect used stolen credit cards to buy gasoline.
Often, these cases include charges for trafficking with stolen credit cards, something that since last year includes more severe penalties.
The trick is to use a device that connects to a gas pump and copies the information on the card. In this way, the criminals take possession of the money and the identities of the victims.
At gas stations throughout South Florida, customers pay for fuel with their credit cards without knowing they are providing thieves with their account numbers. The criminalscome back later to collect the devices along with hundreds of card numbers.
The number of thieves who operate daily is something that is not known with certainty.
In 2017, inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discovered 148 devices at gas pumps throughout the state.
For the victims, the impact is immediate. Thanks to the use of high-tech computer programs, they write those stolen numbers on blank gift cards from stores like Walmart, Amazon and Winn-Dixie.
The prosecution said, “one of the most notorious thieves is Jaime Fernandez del Pino, currently accused of organizing illegal operations from a condominium in Hialeah where he was able to make up to 1,000 fake credit cards a day.”
When police raided his home last month, they found thousands of fake credit cards, more than 50,000 blank cards, printers, computers, devices to steal gasoline pumps and even large metal plates that are commonly used to cover pumps at gas stations.
Rogel Morejón Soto had a 2004 Econoline van parked outside his apartment in West Kendall early last year. In the back were two 264-gallon plastic tanks, according to the Miami-Dade police arrest report.
For some unknown reason, something hot or some electrical problem came into contact with the gasoline and the vehicle exploded causing a huge fire that was burning for many hours.
In that incident, two firefighters almost perished and teams specialised in intense fires had to be mobilised, including an air-plane.
The disaster it caused was huge, and even the sub-floor under the pavement was contaminated.
The cost to the taxpayers was hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At present, Morejón Soto is awaiting trial, accused of having deliberately caused a fire and having a vehicle with an illegal tank to store fuel.