Police arrested six members of a Southern California crime ring for allegedly using gas-pump skimmers to steal credit card information at several Bay Area gas stations – including in Los Altos.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that the arrests resulted from a two-year investigation by its Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT).
Investigators reported that members of the crime ring secretly installed electronic skimming devices to steal credit card information from unsuspecting customers at gas stations in Los Altos, San Jose, Redwood City, Fremont and San Francisco. The group then used stolen credit card information to create counterfeit credit cards, which were used to purchase more than $500,000 in merchandise, mostly Apple computer products.
Reached by the Town Crier, Deputy District Attorney Tom Flattery of the High Tech Crimes Unit could not specify which Los Altos gas stations were targeted.
Three members of the same family were among those arrested. Ontario resident Petra Vaca, 53, was charged with felony identity theft along with her 33-year-old son, Luis Gomez of Yucaipa. Vaca and Gomez were arraigned in Santa Clara Friday and remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. Vaca’s daughter Lupe Castelar, 35, a Fontana resident, was arrested on similar charges.
During arrests executed earlier this month in Southern California, investigators discovered hundreds of counterfeit credit cards, fraudulent California drivers’ licenses, more than two dozen credit card skimmers, credit card manufacturing lab equipment, a kilogram of cocaine and weapons, including assault rifles and a grenade launcher.