The CID may not always get its man (or woman), but we do get quite a few. Here are some recent examples:
Leobardo Rodriguez, 48, of Pecos was arrested on a motion to adjudicate guilt capias warrant for violating terms of his original six years’ deferred probation for motor fuel tax evasion while using red dyed diesel fuel to operate a motor vehicle on public highways.
In September 2021, Rodriguez pleaded true to violating the terms of his probation. A Reeves County district judge sentenced him to 10 years in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice probated for six years for motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
The court documents revealed that Rodriguez violated terms of his deferred sentence by being charged with allegedly committing theft of property over $750 but less than $2,500 by the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office. He also failed to comply with the terms of his probation by not notifying his probation officer of his arrest, paying all his fines and court costs and completing the required community service hours.
Chery Morin-Alarcon, 48, of Hialeah, Fla., will spend time in prison for unauthorized purchases of diesel fuel.
In February 2020, Baytown police detained the defendant for using a counterfeit card in large, fraudulent transactions to obtain a sizable volume of diesel fuel. His pickup truck bed was modified with an auxiliary fuel tank to receive, transport and dispense motor fuel.
A Harris County district judge sentenced him to five years in prison for fraudulent use/possession of credit/debit card information of more than 10 but less than 50 items, a second-degree felony, and three years for credit/debit card abuse against the elderly, a third-degree felony. Both sentences will be served concurrently in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was credited with eight months’ jail time served. The charge of engaging in a fuel transaction without a license was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.
Maikel Orlans Abad-Suarez, 41, of Pasadena was serving three years’ probation for the second-degree felony offense of evading motor fuel tax when he found himself back in court.
In November 2020, Abad-Suarez was jailed for violating the terms of his probation. He had allegedly violated a protective order and committed assault with bodily injury (family violence) — both Class A misdemeanors — as well as allegedly found fraudulently possessing more than 10 but less than 50 counterfeit credit or debit cards, a second-degree felony.
He pleaded true to violating terms of his probation and a Harris County judge sentenced him to two years in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the felony offense of motor fuel tax fraud. He pleaded guilty to the new felony offense of fraudulent use/possession of credit or debit cards and will also serve two years on this charge. Both sentences will be served concurrently. He was also sentenced to 310 days in the Harris County jail for violating a protective order. The assault charge was dismissed as part of the plea deal.
Illegally selling tax-free motor fuel didn’t put Blake Blaha, 29, of Highland Village behind bars — at first.
In July 2014, after learning of a Craigslist ad for motor fuel, CID conducted a sting operation in Midland, Texas. Together with officers from the Permian Basin’s FBI Oilfield Theft Task Force, an undercover officer purchased diesel fuel from the defendant at a convenience store.
Further investigation revealed Blaha was using a stolen fuel fleet card from his previous employer to unlawfully acquire and then sell the motor fuel without collecting motor fuel tax.
Blaha was originally given community supervision. However, after violating the terms of his probation a Midland County judge sentenced him to three years for evading motor fuel tax, a second-degree felony, and to nine months for credit card abuse. Both sentences will be served in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A Dallas man will spend several years behind bars for using gas pump skimmers and “cloned” charge cards to acquire and resell large quantities of diesel fuel to truckers.
On July 9, a Dallas County district judge sentenced Eddy Xavier Burgos-Torres, 25, to five years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity. In his judicial confession, he admitted to committing motor fuel tax fraud with three or more individuals. Consequently, the offense was enhanced from the original second-degree felony to a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Burgos-Torres and a co-defendant were indicted last fall for using re-encoded charge cards to fraudulently obtain more than 100 gallons of diesel fuel from various fueling locations in and near Grand Prairie in late July 2020.
The defendants obtained diesel fuel using counterfeit credit card information and delivered it for use in semi-tractor trailers located at a Grand Prairie truck yard.
Dismissed in the plea agreement were additional charges of transporting motor fuel without a cargo manifest or shipping documents and fraudulent use or possession of more than 10 but fewer than 50 items of identifying information, both second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000; and engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a permit or license, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
CID assisted the Grand Prairie Police Department with the investigation of the case.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SB 934 also amends the Penal Code to allows investigators to:
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.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 855, which requires state agencies to publish a list of the three most commonly used Web browsers on their websites. The Texas Comptroller’s most commonly used Web browsers are Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.