Card skimming device scheme linked to gang ties, victims in 8 states leads to arrests

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 27, 2019

CAPE CHARLES, Va. - Dozens of people had their identity stolen while filling their cars up with gas, according to court records.

It's a massive scheme that stretched over several states and has gang ties, according to federal authorities.

Eastern Shore residents told News 3 they were upset to hear that Northampton Sheriff’s officials and the FBI found skimming devices on two gas pumps at a gas station on Lankford Highway in Cape Charles, according to court records.

Records indicate there were other gas stations affected as well.

“It’s not right. It’s not fair," said James Bell, an Eastern Shore resident.

The devices are used to steal a person’s bank account information.

Unsealed documents reveal that multiple victims reported that their identity was stolen in April 2018 and that cash was taken from their accounts.

They also reported bank cards being made in their names.

The investigation revealed losses exceeding $50,000, and it identified multiple suspects of an organized gang allegedly responsible for the entire ordeal, according to the documents.

Court documents state there were dozens of victims from eight different states including Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and that 13 of the victims were from our region.

Related: Suffolk Police warn of possible card skimmers, advise how to avoid getting scammed

Records state that the suspects created fake credit cards using the information stolen from the bank card information. They state the suspects would obtain cash using multiple methods, including utilizing ATMs with a cloned bank card to request money, loading prepaid Visa and Mastercards with funds available on a cloned bank card and purchasing items in a store, then requesting cash back after purchases.

The records go on to say the suspects were seen on surveillance video at various Harris Teeters in Virginia and North Carolina. Self-proclaimed boxer Lester Smith, who is also known as "Lester the Eastern Shore Express," said he grew up on the Eastern Shore and is angry that people were taking advantage of those in his community.

“People are out here trying to get you. You got to be careful,” said Smith. “You got too many hardworking citizens here on the Eastern Shore. People are very hardworking. Money is hard to get. Take it from me, the Eastern Shore Express. Get a job and go to work… if you need money, don’t try to steal nobody else’s money.”

He said he always goes inside to pay for gas because he doesn’t trust the machines near the pump at gas stations.

Cape Vape is a vaping business right next to the gas station and News 3 spoke with its owner, Debbie Markwith, who was stunned to hear the accusations.

“It’s stealing. It is straight up stealing, and it’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair to those of us who work hard every day,” said Markwith.

Florida resident Pedro Duran and three others are facing conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

Duran’s lawyer says he is out on bond and has another court hearing coming up in the next few weeks. He had no comment about the accusations.