A Florida woman was found guilty of helping to orchestrate a massive multi-state operation to use debit card skimmers to steal credit and debit card numbers, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.
The devices, which have proliferated across the nation over the last year, are hidden inside pumps or are disguised as card readers at payment terminals or ATMs.
Eunises Llorca-Menses, 30, of Naples, Florida, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in January. She now faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
The crimes took place across the southeast, including parts of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia. Police first discovered hints of the operation in Ozark, Ala., about a half hour northwest from Dothan.
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Llorca-Menses and her co-defendant Reiner Perez-Rives, of Houston, would rent cars and travel between states, where they would visit gas stations and install skimming devices inside the pumps, police said.
They would use the skimming device to collect credit/debit card information and then use it activate other credit, debit and gift cards or to make fraudulent ATM withdrawals across the southeast.
Police discovered that many victims had used their cards at the same gas station in Ozark, and when they investigated the location, they found one of the skimmers, which could pick up a customer’s information while they were sitting up to 30 feet away from the actual pump.
Police arrested Llorca-Menses and Peres-Rives, who were found with 39 credit cards encoded with fraudulent data, along with another 317 gift cards. A key for the gas pump where the skimmer was found was also discovered in Llorca-Menses’ purse.
“This conviction should send a strong message to debit card skimmers seeking to target unsuspecting Alabamians: you will be caught and brought to justice,” said Attorney General Marshall.
“This is a win for all our communities as well as the men and women who stand up for justice every day. Teamwork is essential to the very being of a law enforcement professional. The Ozark Police Department was happy to do our part and will continue the fight against crime and disorder,” said Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker.
The attorney general’s office said that criminals often target pumps that allow them to install skimming devices without being detected. To protect their information as much as possible, the office said that customers should either pay inside or make sure the pump they use is visible to security cameras or store employees.
But often, it’s still nearly impossible to detect a skimmer from the outside. “Citizens are encouraged to monitor their bank and credit card accounts frequently and immediately report any unusual activity to their financial institution,” the attorney general’s office said.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE