Two Miami men charged with installing skimming devices at Sarasota service stations

Detectives find devices at Bee Ridge Road Sunoco and Citgo, as well as a South Tamiami Trail 7-Eleven

An aerial map shows the location of the 4100 block of Bee Ridge Road. Image from Google Maps

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two Miami men for allegedly installing skimming devices at three Sarasota service stations, the office has announced.

Patrol deputies first were alerted around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, when a person called the Sheriff’s Office about a suspicious white Chevy Camaro parked at the closed Sunoco gas station in the 4100 block of Bee Ridge Road, a news release explains. “Deputies quickly located the vehicle as it was leaving the gas station and made contact with the driver,” Michel Varona-Saavedra, 18, and passenger, Yoandy Perez-Del Prado, 34, the release adds.

During a search of the vehicle, deputies recovered two skimming devices, cordless drills and a set of keys that gives access to gas pumps, the release reports. When the deputies checked the gas station, the release continues, they “discovered two additional skimming devices installed on the pumps.”

After detectives interviewed Varona-Saavedra and Perez-Del Prado, the release points out, the two were arrested for possession of the skimming devices, the release reports.

During the interview with Varona-Saavedra, detectives found he was also in possession of five counterfeit credit cards, the release says.

Michel Verona-Saavedra. Image courtesy Sheriff’s Office

As the investigation continued, detectives discovered skimming devices at two more gas stations, the release points out. One device was at the Citgo located at 4529 Bee Ridge Road, while the other was at the 7-Eleven located at 6104 S. Tamiami Trail. “Both were in full operation at the time they were discovered,” the release adds.

Varona-Saavedra has been charged with six counts of Possession of a Skimming Device, two counts of Offense Against a Computer Network and one count of Trafficking in Counterfeit Credit Cards. He was ordered held at the Sarasota County Jail on $185,000 bond. Perez-Del Prado has been charged with six counts of Possession of a Skimming Device and two counts of Offense Against a Computer Network. He was ordered held at the Sarasota County Jail on $160,000 bond.

Customers who have purchased gas at the above locations are encouraged to check their bank statements for any suspicious transactions, no matter how small the amount, the release stresses. Patrons of convenience stores also are encouraged by the Sheriff’s Office to remember these safety tips:
• Pay with cash inside the store when possible. “If you don’t have cash, use a credit card instead of a debit card,” the release says. Credit cards have better fraud protection.

• Check for signs of tampering at the pump. Among those is a broken security seal over the door. If something seems out of place, notify gas station personnel.
• Monitor bank statements regularly to spot unauthorized charges. If something does not add up, contact your bank immediately.