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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Skimming arrests
White Pine authorities have arrested three natives of Cuba in a conspiracy to skim credit cards at gas pumps in the region. Sgt. Paul Lowe of the White Pine PD says there are a large number of victims in the case. The arrests were made in a traffic stop in White Pine on Friday after a gas station clerk recognized the suspects from publicized media reports. "They did a search warrant in an apartment in Knox County, as a result of our traffic stop and they confiscated eight(skimmers), plus Amazon gift cards and about $18,000 in cash," Sgt. Lowe said. The officer said the men face more than 100 charges in Bristol, Virginia alone, as well as many communities across East Tennessee and Kentucky. "Dandridge found three (skimmers) on the pumps at it's Zoomers convenience store several weeks ago, and I think it's the same guys. They've been hitting us for a long time," the officer added. An investigation by the Bristol Virginia Police Department led to charges against Uvar Alexander Valera Esquenazi, 29, Sarasota, Florida, and Renier Ramirez-Rodriguez, 30, Louisville, Kentucky, with 77 felony charges and 41 misdemeanor charges each of credit/debit card forgery and fraud. White Pine Detective Darin Lane said the two suspects face local charges along with a third suspect, Elver Perez, 36, also of Louisville, Ky. Esquenazi and Ramirez-Rodriguez are charged with 11 counts each of identity theft and theft. Perez is charged with criminal responsibility for facilitation of a felony ie. identity theft. Skimmers are card readers attached to the payment terminals on the gas pump that collect information from credit cards. The thief then returns to the pump later to pick up the file that contains the stolen information. The collected card information allows the hacker to create fraudulent cards with the information or just access bank accounts to take money. Skimmers usually don't prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly, leaving no evidence that the card had been skimmed. Sgt. Lowe said many of the skimming victims did not report the incident to police because after notifying their bank, the financial institution returned the money lost from the account. According to investigators, the case started January 24, when Bristol detectives began to investigate debit card fraud incidents that were reported by 18 different victims. In all the incidents, the victims received notice of the fraud while still in possession of their debit cards. The suspects were observed on surveillance camera videos at the locations of the incidents. Investigators believe the suspects had worked the I-40/I-81 interstate between Knoxville and Washington County, VA. They were observed on video surveillance in that stretch of the interstate. They are currently jailed in Jefferson County.

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