LUTZ, Fla. (WFLA) — Four men were arrested after officials said they installed a device inside of gas pumps to steal fuel at two different gas stations.
The two incidents happened a Circle K gas station on State Road 54 in Lutz and a Circle K station on Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland.
Marlon Rosel-Rodriguez and Yordan Diaz Benitez were arrested for the Lutz theft. Yulier Garcia-Martinez and Rogelio Llarena were taken into custody for the Lakeland one.
“Anytime that we’re seeing a theft like this or actual fraud, we have a zero tolerance,” Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said. “And we’re going to come in and it’s a very clear symbol to anyone that may be thinking if doing something like this, we’re going to catch you. “
In the Lutz theft, the Florida Department of Agriculture said they were told a man, later identified as Marlon Rosel-Rodriguez, was trying to access the inner electronic parts of a fuel pump on March 12. They said surveillance video showed him and another man, Yordan Diaz Benitez, put something inside one of the fuel pumps.
An inspection of the pump by the department showed there was a a fuel pulsar manipulation device inside of it.
When they searched Rosel-Rodriguez’s car, they said they found a key chain with a remote that could control the manipulation device, as well as keys used to open up gas pumps.
Rosel-Rodriguez faces three felony charges. Two of them are for the gas theft. Those are unauthorized access to electronic equipment and criminal mischief.
The third one is related to an expired registration on his vehicle that officials said Rosel-Rodriguez tried to forge to appear as valid.
A fuel pulsar is found inside pumps and convert the amount of gas coming through the pump into a price on the screen. When that device is tampered with, one could get large amounts of gas for a small percentage of the cost.
“They’re able to change the price of the fuel down to a nickel or a penny to the gallon and fill the back of their trucks up, their bladders or spare tanks with fuel that’s basically free,” president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association Ned Bowman said.
Smaller, independent gas stations are the ones who could be hurt the most by these types of crimes.
“Somebody pumps gas at 5 cents a gallon, or diesel fuel at 5 cents a gallon, and you’re paying 4.50 or 5 dollars a gallon for it,” said Bowman. “It hits your bottom line pretty quick.”
Commissioner Fried urged Floridians to watch out for these crimes. Her best advise was if something doesn’t look right at a pump or at a gas station, to report it.
“If you are seeing something that is happening at the gas station, whether it is fraud, or you see a certain number on the street that lures you into the gas station, or you are seeing something happening at the pumps,” said Commissioner Fried.
There’s an English and Spanish hotline to report incidents. The English hotline is 1-800-435-7352. The Spanish one is 1-800-352-9832.