During the course of a three-day, multi-agency operation, detectives located and removed skimmers from gas pumps across Hillsborough County.
Between September 14-16, 2020, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Tampa Police Department, set out on “Operation Skimmer Sweep,” to inspect and examine thousands of gas pumps for any signs of tampering in the county. In total, detectives inspected 440 gas stations. 13,612 individual gas pumps were opened and examed, and detectives located and removed 31 skimmers.
“Our detectives are proactively taking steps to protect the citizens and those visiting us here in Hillsborough County,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “At this time, we do not believe anybody’s personal information was compromised. If you believe you may have been compromised, I urge you to call our non-emergency number at (813) 247-8200 or you can even file a report online using our online reporting system found at www.teamhcso.com.”
The 31 skimmers impounded were sent to HCSO’s Evidence Section. Fingerprints found on the skimmers will be used for possible suspect identification. At least one suspect has already been positively identified as a result of “Operation Skimmer Sweep.” Lester Echemendia Tapia, 41, was arrested and charged with Possession of a Skimming Device, Trafficking in Counterfeit Credit Cards, and Fraudulent Possession of Personal Identification Information.
Detectives advise consumers to remain alert. If any gas pump appears to be tampered with, please contact HCSO immediately.
Additionally, the Hillsborough County Regulatory Compliance Division, under Consumer and Veterans Services, joined “Operation Skimmer Sweep” to inspect gas pumps for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This requires gas stations to provide equal access for customers with disabilities under Hillsborough County Ordinance 11-23. Retailers are required to have a sign or sticker clearly displaying the phone number for the gas station in case a consumer is in need of assistance.
Of the 232 gas stations inspected, 92 of them were not in compliance with the ordinance. Warning letters will be sent to those stations in violation of the ordinance and re-inspections will be conducted in the coming weeks.
“‘Operation Skimmer Sweep’ was a joint operation and I want to thank all of the agencies involved for their assistance,” added Sheriff Chronister. “This teamwork approach showcases the commitment we all possess to think outside the box in order to better serve everyone in our community.”
In the video below, media outlets can find soundbites from Sheriff Chronister on “Operation Skimmer Sweep.”