Man Who Sought Asylum in United States Arrested for Installing Skimmers on Gas Pumps
CINCINNATI – Yosbel Ponce Bernal, 26, has been charged with using gas pump skimmers in Butler and Hamilton counties. Ponce is a Cuban national with a Florida address. He was arrested in Louisville, Ky. on Friday.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Todd A. Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, and Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds announced the charges, which were unsealed Friday.
A skimmer placed inside a gas pump collects credit card information from victims using the pump. The skimmer is installed between the credit card reader and the other internal circuitry of the gas pump. The intended gas purchase will typically proceed without interruption of any kind or any notification to the victim or third party. A single gas station skimmer is capable of storing credit card information for hundreds of victims, and many skimmers are capable of storing approximately thousands of card numbers.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in September 2018, the Butler County Auditor’s Office alerted the FBI to a skimmer in Fairfield, Ohio. The auditor’s office removed the skimmer and discovered information stored from 27 credit cards.
In October, camera surveillance of the gas pumps recorded Ponce opening the gas pump door and spending minutes allegedly installing a second skimming device deeper into the gas pump than the first skimmer had been. Ponce is recorded at the pump after midnight; the gas station closed at 11pm.
In November, skimmers were discovered on two gas pumps in Hamilton County. Video surveillance from the Hamilton County location also allegedly depicts Ponce.
Law enforcement officials tested a gas pump for fingerprints and matched two prints to Ponce. Ponce’s fingerprints are on record from previously applying for asylum in the United States.
Using a skimmer is a federal crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
"We appreciate the efforts of the FBI and United States Attorney's Office as we work together to combat this criminal activity in the region,” said Butler County Auditor Reynolds.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and Butler County Auditor’s Office, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Landry, who is prosecuting the case.
A criminal complaint merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
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