In our latest report, FOX 11 Investigates exposes theft rings using stolen credit card information and makeshift fuel trucks to steal diesel from unsuspecting station owners. The stolen fuel is then sold to truckers, sometimes in the desert, sometimes on the street. This is not only illegal, it's dangerous. The panel trucks fitted with illegal tanks or bladders have exploded and caught fire, making them a danger on our streets.
It's a new twist on an old scam, identity theft. The bad guys get your personal information, often without you even knowing it by attaching so called ‘'skimmers'' to the credit card readers on gas station pumps. Once they have the credit card number, it's relatively easy, if you have the right equipment and know-how, to manufacture new cards with your credit card information embedded into that black magnetic strip on the back. Then the thieves go on a buying spree for, of all things, diesel fuel!
Local police departments in Glendale and Los Angeles are both working cases involving just that. Typically, the thieves use a modified van or utility truck, outfitted with rubber storage tanks inside called ‘' bladders''. They'll roll up to a gas station and pump hundreds of dollars worth of fuel into their tanks with one card, pop in another card, and do it over and over again. They might spend ten or 15 minutes at one station, then move on to the next. They're rarely there long enough to cause suspicion. Once they've got their haul, according to police, they typically sell it at a discount to unscrupulous truckers who are trying to save a few bucks on their end.
What's particularly frustrating for the cops who make these cases is that when the bad guys are caught, they've been getting probation and walking. In fact, in the two cases we profiled on Wednesday's FOX 11 News at 10, the men arrested were on probation for doing the very same thing earlier. One is on the lam, and the detectives in the LAPD's Transnational Organized Crime Task Force at (213) 486-7342 want you to give them call if you know anything about this.
Obviously, there's a lesson here and Glendale Police Sgt. Don Suttles tells me prosecutors are working on what are called ‘'enhancements'' to stiffen the penalties for these kinds of crime. Seems like, if you are not committing a crime of violence he says, it's tough to actually get sent to jail. Another issue is these homemade ‘tankers'' if you will, are unstable. We have dramatic video of one generic looking white cargo van smashing into a house in Vancouver and exploding into flames. It seems no one was hurt or killed in that case, but the FBI says these are "rolling time bombs" and it is likely just a matter of time.