Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Central, South Coasts Being Hit By Large Scale Gas Thefts; Thieves Use Specially Modified Trucks

Organized rings buy gas with stolen credit card information, then resell the gas on the black market.

There’s a shocking new type of crime occurring on the Central and South Coasts, one you might have witnessed without even knowing it. Criminals are using stolen credit car information to buy gasoline.

That might not sound like a big deal at first, but what they are doing is using specially modified trucks with hidden bladders to steal 250 to 300 gallons at a time, to resell on the black market.

Detective Kevin Lynch is with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. He says the crime is occurring all over the region.

Lynch says part of the way the these fly under the radar is they don’t buy huge quantities at one time, something which might raise a red flag with a clerk at the station. They'll buy 20 to 30 gallons of gas with one phony credit card, and then do the same thing a second or third time with other cards before moving on to another station.

But, the detective says some alert deputies in Moorpark caught three men in the act, when they spotted two trucks getting gas early in the morning at an unmanned station.

The bladders were covered with junk in the pickup truck beds. But, that’s where detectives stepped up. They suspected the operation involved stolen credit cards.

Lynch says they traced the men to a Pomona hotel room, where they found an entire identity theft lab, with computers and software capable of making phony credit cards.

As for how the gas is moved into the black market through illegal wholesalers, the detective is tight lipped, because they are hoping to track down those people.

Lynch says while it might be hard for you to spot these bladder truck thieves in action, because their vehicle often look like common work trucks, there is a way you can help, as well as help yourself. He says don't use your card outside at pumps, because they can be compromised with skimmers. You are safer by paying inside.

And, he says if you do have to pay outside, use the pumps closest to the clerks, because they are less likely to be compromised.

The detective says make sure you don’t get your card information stolen, and unwitting help the gas thieves.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.