By KIM LEATHERMAN

Staff Writer

AVON PARK — Amaury Abreu Gonzalez, 47, of Homestead was arrested by Highlands County Sheriff’s Office deputies around 9:30 p.m. Thursday with co-defendant Jennifer Torres Talavera, 26, no address given. The pair were arrested for crimes involving credit card skimmers at the El Paso gas station at 209 U.S. 27 North.

Gonzalez and Talavera, who refused to give her address, are each facing charges of fraud (using a computer to defraud or obtain property), two counts of possession of a counterfeited credit card, three counts of fraud (using a card scan re-encoder/skimmer) and one count of grand theft (appropriating the gas pump for a criminal act is considered theft, explained the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office). Talavera was also charged with possession of new legend drugs without a prescription.

Gonzalez is facing felony charges of larceny, grand theft $5,000 less than $10,000, fraud, computer crime to defraud or obtain property, two counts on possessing counterfeited credit card invoice sales draft, fraud, three counts to use pay card scan re-encoder to defraud second offense.

According to the arrest report, deputies came into contact with a suspicious gray Ford F-150 pickup truck at El Paso gas station. When the truck left, deputies noticed the fuel pump was opened near where the F-150 was parked.

Deputies pulled over the F-150 to find Gonzalez and Talavera inside of it. The deputies used Bluetooth technology to search out skimmers at the gas station. When deputies scrutinized the pumps at El Paso, they found the opened one had a credit card skimming device that was flashing a light and activated. After removal of the device, the Bluetooth did not reveal other active skimmers.

Deputies searched the F-150 and found two other skimming devices, identical to the one found in the gas pump. A Green Dot (debit) card and a wallet with other cards in it were also found. A pill was found on the front seat of the vehicle. The report said the the medicine was for “numerous bacterial infections.”

The report also says there were gas pump security seals, the kind used by El Paso.

The incident was caught on video tape, although the couple denied being the culprits. The El Paso employee said he had just checked the pumps at 8:50 p.m. and there were no other vehicles at that pump before the F-150 pulled up. Gonzalez also told deputies there was a backpack on the ground when they pulled up. The video disproved that, according to the report.

The video does show Gonzalez opening the pump, reaching inside, and using a gold card in the reader in order to test it, the deputy wrote. While he was testing the card, Talavera was on her phone and nods to Gonzalez that the reader is working. Three cell phones were found: one at the pump, one on Talavera and the third in the truck. Credit cards with corresponding zip codes were also taken. One bank card was found in a wallet with Gonzalez’s license in it.

In May, Gonzalez was arrested in Irdell County, North Carolina for card theft skimmers with a different co-defendant. He is scheduled to face one count of possession of a 5+ counterfeit instrument and 10 counts of card theft with a scanning device on Dec. 9, 2019.

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