TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two Tampa men are accused of filling ‘fuel bladder’ vehicles in Pasco County before deputies stopped them and took them into custody. Investigators say they are two separate cases and they are not sure if they are related.
A bladder truck is a vehicle that has been retrofitted to include a fuel tank that is hidden from plain sight and can be used to hold large volumes of fuel. The fuel is then typically sold on the black market.
An alert citizen called deputies on the morning of Jan. 30. The caller appears to work at the Racetrac station at 5923 State Road 54 in New Port Richey. 8 on Your Side obtained the phone call the citizen made, although her name was redacted.
“Dispatcher: Communications, can I help you?
Caller: Hi, I have a vehicle at my location that’s been known to use fraudulent credit cards and they were actually looking for it the other day. And it just pulled up.
Caller: I’ve been in contact with Detective Gasparino about this vehicle, for having possible fuel bladders.”
Deputies responded to the scene and saw the truck leaving the gas station. When they stopped it for an equipment violation, the found the vehicle had a false bottom with a large fuel bladder inside. The driver was also in possession of 96 gift cards with fraudulently obtained credit card numbers attached. They arrested Ismel Lopez Alonso and charged him with possession of counterfeit credit cards and unlawful conveyance of fuel.
Later that same day, someone called to report a Ford van at the 7-11 at Rowan Road and State Road 54 filling up with an ‘excessive amount of fuel.’ When deputies stopped the van, Rodolfo Camejo Cruz gave deputies permission to search.
8 on Your Side obtained the body camera video of that traffic stop. In a Camel cigarette box, one deputy found the motherload:
“I don’t know what’s in here but, Bingo!” exclaimed the deputy. “There you go! ” The video shows the deputy flipping through a handful of gift cards much like the first case.
Further investigation revealed the cards had personal information from 21 victims. Investigators located the fuel bladder underneath the passenger seats of the van. A switch on the fuel door diverted the fuel from the regular tank of the van to the bladder.
Deputies arrested Camejo-Cruz for illegally transporting and obtaining fuel. He has since bonded out of the Pasco County Jail. Lopez-Alonso remains behind bars.