The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services made the arrests on Wednesday. Commissioner Nikki Fried said she takes these types of crimes seriously.
“Anytime that we’re seeing a theft like this, or actual fraud, we have zero tolerance,” Fried said. “And we’re going to come in and it’s a very clear symbol to anyone that may be thinking of doing something like this — we’re going to catch you. “
The alleged incidents happened at a Circle K gas station in Lutz and a Circle K station in Lakeland. At the Lutz location, officers arrested Marlon Rosel-Rodriguez and Yordan Diaz Benitez of Tampa. At the Lakeland location, they arrested Yulier Garcia-Martinez and Rogelio Llarena of Orlando.
Ned Bowman, the president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, said the suspects were running a pretty sophisticated operation.
“They go in and they change the pulsator. The pulsator is the device that is inside the gas pump that regulates the flow of the fuel,” Bowman explained. “So they’re able to change the price of the fuel down to a nickel or a penny to the gallon and fill the back of their trucks up — their bladders or spare tanks — with fuel that’s basically free.”
Bowman said the small, independent gas stations could really suffer as a result of this type of crime.
“Somebody pumps gas at 5 cents a gallon, or diesel fuel at 5 cents a gallon, and you’re paying $4.50 or $5 a gallon for it — it hits your bottom line pretty quick,” Bowman said.
Commissioner Fried is urging Floridians to watch out these types of crimes, and also each other.
“If you are seeing something that is happening at the gas station — whether it is fraud, or you see a certain number on the street that lures you into the gas station, or you are seeing something happening at the pumps — we have both an English and Spanish line for people to call,” said Fried.
Florida residents can report suspicious activity in English at 1-800-HELP-FLA, or in Spanish at 1-800-FL-AYUDA.