(As originally published with bells and whistles, Fri, July 15th 2022, 4:30 AM EDT)
LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — High gas prices led to “numerous reports of diesel fuel thefts” around South Florida and a detective with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office took down two suspects who allegedly used high-tech equipment to steal several hundred gallons of diesel.
The detective wrote about “conducting surveillance at various gas stations” and arriving at the 7-Eleven on Lake Worth Road, east of the Turnpike.
On June 30 at about 2 p.m., she saw a Chevy Avalanche “with a fuel tank in the bed of the pickup truck at pump 12,” but it wasn’t the first time she saw it.
“Upon further review of the truck, I immediately recognized this same Chevrolet Avalanche from a bulletin I had observed earlier this same day, regarding a theft of fuel that occurred” at a RaceTrac gas station in Royal Palm Beach on June 24. In that case, there was an estimated $2,231.23 theft of fuel.
The detective wrote about watching driver Yandry Escobar Fragoso, 39, “standing outside of the truck, while actively pumping fuel into the tank,” but that wasn’t all she reported seeing.
“Upon further review of the vehicle, I observed the tag attached to the Chevrolet had the second to last digit concealed by blue painter’s tape,” she wrote. “As I maintained full visual of the vehicle and operator, I was actively taking photographs of the incident as it was occurring, while notifying assisting units who were responding to the scene.”
Then, somebody new arrived.
The detective wrote that at about 2:25 p.m., a Toyota Tundra parked directly next to her unmarked vehicle. It also had a removable fuel tank in the bed of the truck and driver Evaristo Carballe Gonzalez, 48, was “looking directly at the Chevrolet Avalanche as he was parked directly next to me. Although numerous other pumps at this same gas station were open, the Toyota Tundra remained parked next to my vehicle along the west side of the 7-Eleven building, all the while monitoring the Avalanche’s activity.”
That lasted a minute, until, “The avalanche discontinued fueling and began to drive away from pump 12. Simultaneously, the Toyota Tundra expeditiously left the parking space next to my unmarked vehicle and drove directly up to pump 12, where the Avalanche had just left. As I watched the Tundra drive up to pump 12, I observed that its license plate was concealed by black covering. As the Avalanche drove away from the pump, behind the 7-Eleven store, [a second detective] who was on the scene conducted a traffic stop on the Avalanche directly behind the 7-Eleven. From my position, I was able to maintain a visual of both the traffic stop on the Avalanche and the Toyota Tundra, which was now at pump 12 actively pumping fuel in the gas tank of the pickup truck. I was able to obtain photographs of the driver of the Toyota parked next to my vehicle prior to the Avalanche leaving pump 12, and after the Avalanche left, while actively pumping fuel at this same pump.
“At approximately 2:26 p.m., [a third and fourth detective] made contact with the Tundra (Carballe Gonzalez) while at pump 12 as he was actively fueling gas into his tank,” she described. “Contact was made with the store management who verified that at 1:37 p.m., a $1.10 charge was made at pump 12 with the use of a credit card. Additionally, video surveillance confirmed the Avalanche arrived at pump 12 at 1:27 p.m. and remained at this same pump until it was observed leaving (on video surveillance come addition to my personal eyewitness account) at approximately 2:26 p.m. Additionally, as the Tundra pulled into pump 12 as the Avalanche simultaneously left, I recognized the Tundra from the same aforementioned information bullet regarding the diesel theft fuel theft that occurred on 06/2/4/2022 at the RaceTrac in Royal Palm Beach, on the same date and location as the Avalanche had been observed.
“Upon confirming only $1.10 in fuel sales occurred at pump 12 throughout the entire duration of both the Avalanche [and] Tundra’s time at scene, it was confirmed that a theft and fraud had occurred.”
Besides theft and fraud, the arrest report mentions tampering and replacing equipment.
“It should also be noted that while I was actively watching both Escobar and Carballe at the fuel pumps, both subjects were wearing disposable latex gloves. Department of Agriculture responded to the scene and conducted a thorough search of both vehicles’ fuel tanks (which were in violation of [the law] for authorized fuel transportation) and further inspection of pump 12 confirmed the door had been manipulated and pried open.
“Additionally, the interior search of the pump confirmed the store’s actual pulsar device was removed and was replaced with an electronic fuel speed control device that allows the pump to continue dispensing fuel without maintaining the true and accurate amount of fuel being dispersed.
“Furthermore, the fuel speed control device that had been illegally installed in the pump, without the 7-Eleven’s knowledge, consent and/or authorization, is electronically controlled with a remote-control device. The fuel speed control device also intercepts the true funds from the sale from being said to the store.”
Both suspects were arrested and searched, and the report said “Carballe had the remote control for the unauthorized fuel speed control device found inside pump 12,” which the state confirmed “was in fact compatible with the unauthorized fuel speed device.
“Additionally, Carballe had a remote control that was electronically linked to the interior of his vehicle that automatically covers the license plate.
“Another unidentified control device was also found in Escobar’s vehicle, along with a roll of the same blue tape that was covering the second to last digit of the tag attached to his Avalanche. No receipts associated with the diesel fuel sale/purchase in which he had just made was found in his possession and/or vehicle.”
It turned out, “A total of 245 gallons of premium fuel was removed from the tank in the bed of the Avalanche. On this state, 7-Eleven’s price for the premium fuel was valued at $5.279 a gallon, indicating a total of $1,293.35 in fuel was stolen as a result of the unauthorized fuel speed control device.”
The drivers were taken away and interviewed separately.
According to the arrest report, Carballe “acknowledged using the debit card which was initially used by Escobar to initiate the sale, which was found in his possession at the time of his apprehension. Carballe further stated he purchased the card at a CVS. Additionally, he stated that he saw the remote (that was confirmed to be compatible with the fuel speed control device) that was found in his pocket on the pump when he first pulled up. He further stated that he did not know what the remote did, or what it was used for, denying that he used it to begin fueling his own tank (despite no sale being identified by the 7-Eleven for his vehicle at all). Carballe also denied knowing Escobar. Carballe stated the remote-control device that electronically conceals/covers his license plate was in his pocket at the time, and stated that he hit a bump and accidentally activated it. Upon informing him of the fuel device discovered a pump 12, coupled with his illogical explanations of how the remote in his possession was compatible with the device, he immediately invoked his right to have an attorney present.”
The detective wrote about another “illogical explanation” with Escobar.
“He stated he had only been at the 7-Eleven for 15-20 minutes maximum, despite my personal observation of him actively pumping fuel for approximately 40 minutes. Escobar said he pumped approximately 200 gallons in the fuel tank of the bed of his truck and used his personal [bank] debit card to purchase the sale. Escobar was unable to advise how much his card was charged, despite the fact that if the sale had been legitimate, it would have been over $1,000 charged to his bank card. Initially, Escobar denied knowing Carballe or being involved in any of the fuel theft rings (despite being shown his vehicle from the RaceTrac bulletin); however, once he was informed that a warrant on his cellular phone could prove their true and actual affiliation, he immediately changed his previous statement and said he did know Carballe for many years from Cuba, but did not know why he was in the same area/gas station is him. Escobar denied involvement in the manipulation of pump 12, and/or use of the fuel speed control device, despite the fact that the card number in which he adamantly identified as the card he used to pump the estimated 200 gallons of fuel in the tank in his truck was not found and/or detailed on any of the associated fuel sales documents provided by 7-Eleven. Escobar invoked his right to an attorney after he was asked to explain his illogical explanation for the card that was actually used upon his arrival, that Carballe was in possession of, coupled with no record of his provided card number and/or estimated 200 gallons of fuel sale.”
Both Yandry Escobar Fragoso and Evaristo Carballe Gonzalez were charged with grand theft, fraud/swindle, unlawful conveyance of fuel, and computer crime to defraud/obtain property.
Escobar Fragoso was booked June 30 at 11:31 p.m. and released in lieu of $6,000 bond the next evening at 8:55 p.m.
Carballe Gonzalez was booked on June 30 at 11:38 p.m. and also released in lieu of $6,000 bond, on July 1 at 8:52 p.m.