Feds: Cuban nationals put skimmers on busy Tri-State gas station, made prolific purchases

Loveland police said at the time there were ‘a great number’ of victims.
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 5:05 PM EST
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Video above from prior coverage.

CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Two men are facing federal charges after being accused of stealing credit card data from skimmers installed at a local gas station to make purchases at nearly a dozen stores.

Loveland police began investigating the skimmers in April, saying at the time that it was possible “a great number of citizens” had been affected.

Skimmers installed on gas station pumps steal credit card data from customers unwittingly trying to fill up their fuel tanks.

The suspects, 34-year-old Yasmany Ulacia Garcia and 29-year-old Luis Ernesto Vigil Ochoa, are Cuban nationals, according to the Department of Justice. ICE records show the pair were ordered removed from the U.S. in 2019.

Garcia and Ochoa are accused of having placed the skimmers on Loveland gas pumps on multiple occasions in April 2022, according to the criminal complaint. The pair allegedly stole the credit card information and used it to buy gift cards at stores in the area.

The stores include Home Depots in Mason, Hamilton, Lebanon, West Chester, Beechmont, Milford and Cold Spring as well as the Target in Mason, according to the complaint. Authorities say surveillance video caught the pair “spending a significant amount of time at self-checkout registers purchasing gift cards and other merchandise” at the store in Mason.

The Loveland police investigation began when a person reported fraudulent charges on her card. She suspected they happened at a highly trafficked Mobil gas station on 106 West Loveland Ave.

Officers went to the gas station and found skimmers on the first and third pumps. They said the skimmers appeared to have been installed for around a week or longer.

The United States Secret Service, which specializes in wire and technological fraud, responded and collected the skimmer devices for their investigation.

The pair were allegedly fugitives for seven months before they returned to a Dayton hotel.

Last Thursday, federal agents followed them to four Home Depot stores and two Target stores in the Dayton area, authorities say. The agents allegedly found gift cards and a fraudulent American Express card in the suspects’ car. The agents searched the hotel room and allegedly found a magnetic strip reader/writer and an illicit skimming device.

Dayton police officers arrested Garcia and Ochoa on Dec. 8.

It’s unclear when federal authorities first identified them as the suspects. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth Parker unsealed the indictment and announced the charges Monday.

Knowingly possessing a skimmer device with the intent to defraud is a federal crime with a possible 15-year sentence, per federal sentencing guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Loveland PD worked with the Secret Service on the investigation.

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