Police have arrested two men involved in a widespread credit card theft ring using gas pump skimmers at an Edgewood hotel July 3.
When the Harford County Sheriff's Office and other Harford police agencies executed a search and seizure warrant at the hotel room in 1700 block of Van Bibber Road, Ranset M. Rodriguez, of Miami, Fla., and Jose Manuel Iglesia, of Elizabeth, N.J., and two others were in the room with gift cards, credit cards, six gas pump skimming devices, two card reader/re-encoders (used to place stolen card information on altered magnetic strips on the back of credit cards), two computers, one tablet, four cell phones, a thumb drive and Cuban passports, according to charging documents.
Twelve skimming devices have been recovered from Harford County gas stations in recent weeks by the Sheriff's Office, Aberdeen and Bel Air Police and Maryland State Police, police said.
"We served a search warrant in connection to fraud and skimmers. During the search of a room at the Ramada Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Edgewood, cloned credit cards and skimming devices were recovered and the individuals you named were charged in connection with the possession of those items," Cristie Kahler, director of media public relations for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, wrote in an email last week. "At this time, the investigation into the connection to any Harford County incidents is being conducted."
"Whether these people are connected to the skimmers we discovered, we don't know yet. They are a similar type to the ones we recovered, but whether they're connected to ours, we're not sure. It's still under investigation," Kahler said.
Police found more than $4,000 worth of gift cards, ranging in value from $25 to $200, in the hotel room, according to the charging documents.
According to police, information was stolen from credit cards using gas pump skimmers, and that information was encoded onto various credit cards and gift cards by Rodriguez and Iglesia.
"The cards were the provided to various 'runners' to go to local stores and use the cloned/re-encoded cards to purchase gift cards," according to the charging documents, at places like Target, Walmart and Home Depot. They would also buy merchandise using the cards.
The merchandise and gift cards would then be given to Rodriguez and Iglesia for a fee, about $500, according to the court records.
"It is believed that the subjects involved have traveled across the United States committing this identity theft scheme with multiple runners and victims," according to the charging documents.
Rodriguez is charged with nine counts of fraud by identity theft less than $1,000, six counts of possession of an encoding or skimming device and one count each of possession credit card equipment to produce and theft scheme $1,000 to $10,000.
Iglesia is charged with six counts of possession of an encoding or skimming device, four counts of fraud by identity theft less than $1,000 and one count each of possession credit card equipment to produce and theft scheme $1,000 to $10,000.
Both men are being held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center.