The CID may not always get its man (or woman), but we do get quite a few. Here are some recent examples:


Three Thefts Plus One Plea Equals Four Years Behind Bars

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A Round Rock man has been sentenced to four years in prison for using re-encoded charge cards to obtain sizable quantities of diesel fuel at three Williamson County service stations two summers ago.

On Jan. 12, Jorge Luis Rodriguez-Alvarez, 34, pleaded guilty in a Williamson County district court to transporting motor fuel without a cargo manifest or shipping document and fraudulent use/possession of more than 10 but fewer than 50 items of identifying information. Each offense is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Rodriguez-Alvarez was given two four-year prison terms, to be served concurrently, and credited with almost 18 months’ jail time served. A motor fuel tax evasion charge, also a second-degree felony, was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. He is on probation for a felony sexual assault conviction in Travis County, where a revocation motion is still pending in district court.

On Aug. 11, 2019, a CID investigator initially spotted a suspicious cargo box van in Jarrell. He alerted Georgetown police who stopped and detained the defendant and two companions at a gas station on State Highway 195 in Georgetown. During the subsequent stop and search, the investigator confiscated 23 “cloned” cards. Two gift cards were found in the defendant’s wallet; the other 21 cards were recovered from a nearby trash bin. They were determined to belong to Rodriguez-Alvarez, who was driving the van occupied by the two other men. He claimed he was using the diesel fuel in his car-washing business.

Evidence showed the van’s cargo area was outfitted with four, 250-gallon “tote” tanks linked together in the rear of the van. A hose connected them to two, 75-gallon saddle tanks beneath the vehicle’s bed. A power cord connected to a pump enabled fuel transfer using a switch and the vehicle’s battery.

The Georgetown Police Department assisted CID in apprehending the suspects in this case; only Rodriguez-Alvarez was charged.


Evading Tax Doesn’t Mean Evading Jail Time

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A Houston man is being confined for illegally purchasing diesel fuel using re-encoded credit cards.

Nelson Conde-Rodriguez, 35, pleaded guilty Oct. 21 in a Fort Bend County district court to motor fuel tax evasion and was sentenced to two years in prison. He also was ordered to pay fees and restitution.

Conde-Rodriguez was charged with motor fuel tax evasion and transporting motor fuel without a cargo manifest or shipping documents. Both offenses are second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The transporting charge was dismissed as part of the plea deal.

On Jan. 21, the defendant was observed using “cloned” credit cards to illegally purchase diesel fuel at a chain convenience store in Katy. Local police arrested Conde-Rodriguez and later charged him with fraudulent use of identifying information.

CID assisted the Katy Police Department in the investigation of the case.


Hard Time for Fuel Crime

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A Houston man is serving time for using re-encoded credit cards to illegally obtain diesel fuel.

Yuniel Nunez Fernandez, 36 , pleaded guilty September 24 in a Brazoria County district court to engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a permit and was sentenced to three years in prison. He also will spend 300 days in county jail for admitting to unlawful use of a criminal instrument.

Hernandez was charged with fraudulent use of more than 5 but less than 10 pieces of identifying information; engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a license; and unlawful use of criminal instrument, all third-degree felonies punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A related charge of motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, was dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Fernandez and three other suspects were arrested for allegedly using re-encoded credit cards to unlawfully obtain more than 95 gallons of diesel fuel worth almost $250 from a Pearland chain convenience store in March 2019.

The suspects were driving a pickup truck and a box truck, both of which had been modified with hoses, nozzles, electric pumps and auxiliary tanks mounted in the beds to receive, transport and dispense fuel, according to reports. They allegedly passed charge cards to each other between the vehicles. Store employees observed the illegal transactions and alerted Pearland police. They claimed that the suspects attempted to conceal and dispose of their wallets and the 49 “cloned” cards recovered when police arrived.

CID assisted the Pearland Police Department in the investigation of the case.


Doing the Crime May Mean Doing the Time

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A Houston man caught with more than four dozen fake charge cards used to commit fuel fraud could do hard time if he violates conditions of his lengthy probation.

Yoankys Sotolongo-Torres, 30 , admitted possessing 56 counterfeit credit cards, for which a Harris County district judge sentenced him to six years’ probation in lieu of 10 years in prison. He also was fined $1,000 plus court costs and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

Possessing more than 50 pieces of identifying information is a first-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for five to 99 years or life and a fine of up to $10,000. A related charge of engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a license, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, was dismissed as part of the defendant’s plea agreement.

Sotolongo-Torres was accused of using re-encoded credit cards to unlawfully obtain more than 90 gallons of diesel fuel from a chain convenience store in Baytown last fall.

On Oct. 28, 2019, local police confiscated 56 “cloned” cards from him and another suspect. They allegedly used some of the cards to make four transactions officers reportedly observed. Investigators discovered an auxiliary fuel tank concealed in the cargo bed of their pickup truck consistent with motor fuel transporting, according to the evidence.

CID assisted the Baytown Police Department in the investigation of the case.


Fuel Thief Doubles Down, Doubles His Probation

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For the second time in six months, an Austin man has admitted taking sizable amounts of diesel fuel from two area convenience stores, receiving two separate probated sentences.

In August, Ernesto Jesus Izaguirre-Rodriguez, 28 , pleaded guilty in a Bell County district court to motor fuel tax evasion and credit/debit card abuse in 2019 and was sentenced to four years’ probation in lieu of six years’ imprisonment and two years’ state jail confinement, respectively. He also was ordered to pay more than $2,550 in restitution, plus court and other related costs, and perform 280 hours of community service.

Last March, Izaguirre-Rodriguez pleaded guilty to the same offenses committed in Travis County in 2018. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and eight and five years’ probation, to be served concurrently, in lieu of six-year and two-year prison sentences, respectively. He also was fined $2,000 plus court costs and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Motor fuel tax evasion is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Credit/debit card abuse is a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years.

Izaguirre-Rodriguez was free on bond in the Travis County case when he was arrested for similar crimes in Bell County. Now that he has been convicted, if he violates the terms of any of the probations, he could be sent to prison or state jail.

In June 2019, the defendant used a re-encoded credit card to fraudulently obtain approximately 90 gallons of diesel fuel worth almost $240 from a chain store in Temple. The fuel was pumped into a large auxiliary tank concealed in the back of a panel van. It also had been modified with a hose, fuel nozzle and digital meter to dispense fuel into a container or another vehicle.

In March 2018, Izaguirre-Rodriguez used a “cloned” credit card to unlawfully obtain more than 74 gallons of diesel fuel worth almost $200 from a Pflugerville convenience store.

Officers conducting joint surveillance observed the defendant making two suspicious transactions at the store. He twice pumped diesel fuel into the supply tank of a gasoline-powered pickup truck before officers blocked it with their vehicles in an adjacent parking lot.

During his arrest, investigators discovered a 200-gallon auxiliary tank concealed under the truck bed cover, along with a reverse system designed to pump the fuel into the concealed tank without removing the cover. They also confiscated several “cloned” credit and debit cards.

CID worked with local authorities in both investigations.


SB 934 Punishes Sales Tax Cheats Same as Theft

When a consumer pays sales tax, he or she does so trusting the retailer will forward that money to the state. When an unscrupulous retailer obtains that tax money, then breaks the trust by intentionally failing to remit that money perhaps keeping, investing, or spending it the consumer and the entire state are victimized. SB 934 dramatically raises the stakes for anyone caught defrauding Texas taxpayers in this way.

Senate Bill 934 (2011), signed by the Governor, amends the Tax Code to treat tax cheats the same as property thieves. Beginning Sept. 1, 2011, anyone who collects and intentionally doesn't remit sales tax will face the same criminal penalties as property theft.

  • Sales tax cheats pocketing amounts from $50 to $1,500 could face county jail time.
  • Felony penalties carrying possible prison time can be assessed for sales tax fraud if as little as $1,500 is pocketed; that's down from the minimum threshold of $10,000 under the existing statute.
  • Stiffer penalties have been authorized right up the scale with a first-degree felony defined, which can bring a punishment of five to 99 years or life in prison for failing to remit $200,000 or more.

SB 934 also amends the Penal Code to allows investigators to:

  • Use state organized crime laws to pursue groups of three or more persons who collaborate to commit tax felonies, which enhances the severity of charges by one degree;
  • Pursue sales tax cheats under state Money Laundering statutes when the trail of the criminal proceeds (unremitted sales tax) is known; and
  • Charge retailers that intentionally fail to produce legally required records of taxable retail sales of alcohol and tobacco products to the Comptroller and base the punishment on the amount of tax avoided when the goods were purchased wholesale.

Sales tax fraud harms all Texans. Now with SB 934, this scam can be punished in tough new ways in the criminal justice system just as strongly as theft and pursued as money laundering and organized crime when appropriate.