Butler County auditor vows to ‘catch you on camera,’ prosecute those accused of skimming

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Yosbel Ponce Bernal, 26, has been charged with using gas pump skimmers in Butler and Hamilton counties. Officials released this video of a man they say is him allegedly installing a skimmer at a Butler County gas station.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Cuban national seeking asylum in the United States and accused of installing credit card skimmers on gas pumps in Butler and Hamilton counties last fall will face federal charges in Cincinnati.

Yosbel Ponce Bernal, 26, of Florida, was arrested Friday and appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. He waived his rights to detention and preliminary hearings and will be transferred to Cincinnati by the U.S. Marshals Service.

No arraignment date in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati has been set, according to Jennifer Thornton, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman.

Using a skimmer is a federal crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

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Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds said the FBI used visual information obtained by the Butler County Auditor’s Office in October to help identify Ponce, along with fingerprints collected from a pump in Hamilton County. Several prominent tattoos are visible in the footage captured by the video camera placed inside the pump this past September following the discovery of two illegal credit card skimmers. The skimming devices had information stored from 27 credit cards.

According to court records, video surveillance from the Hamilton County location also allegedly depicts Ponce. Law enforcement officials tested the gas pump for fingerprints and matched two prints to Ponce. Ponce’s fingerprints are on record from previously applying for asylum.

“It’s unfortunate we take people into our country who repay our act of kindness by stealing from us,” Reynolds said.

The auditor’s office contacted the FBI’s Cincinnati office and shared the video footage.

The video footage not only provided several minutes of identifying information of a criminal suspect, but also uncovered a new technique used to install skimmers inside a dispenser.

When a credit card is run through a skimmer, the small device stores the cardholder’s data. Once the credit information is obtained, the thief can then sell the information or clone the credit card. 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 any interruption, or any notification to the victim or third party.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 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.

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Butler County Auditor Weights and Measures Manager Tom Kamphaus immediately shared this new information with surrounding counties, and his counterparts in Hamilton County found three skimmers they would not otherwise have discovered with a routine inspection.

“We’ve put a lot of time into our inspection and surveillance program so I’m pleased there has been an arrest,” said Reynolds. “We’ve been aggressive in trying to protect consumers from becoming victims of fraud. It’s great to get one guy in custody, but the criminal activity will continue as long as old pumps are being used.”

The two skimmers found in Butler County gas stations on Sept. 13 brought the total number at that time to 24 in a three-year span. No skimmers have been found in Butler County since then, and weekly inspections continue.

“If you install skimmers in Butler County, I’m going to confiscate your devices, catch you on camera and you will be prosecuted,” Reynolds said.