Pay at the pump? Investigators issue warning after customers bilked out of thousands of dollars in Alabama, surrounding states

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Two people are in custody, suspected of stealing money from people by skimming their debit cards at locations in Alabama and surrounding states.  People lost thousands of dollars, according to authorities, and the stolen money has been used at several locations in the Tennessee Valley.

If you’re about to travel somewhere this Christmas, please take note and keep your information secure. Authorities urge you to be vigilant while using debit and credit cards at gas stations.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange urges you to consider paying a gas station attendant, rather than swiping your card at the pump. This, after 2 people were arrested for skimming debit cards at locations in south Alabama and surrounding states. (Getty Images)

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange urges you to consider paying a gas station attendant, rather than swiping your card at the pump. This, after 2 people were arrested for skimming debit cards at locations in south Alabama and surrounding states. (Getty Images)

“When buying gas it is best to directly pay the service station attendant rather than at the pump,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “Furthermore, avoid using debit cards to buy gas since PIN numbers are easier for skimmers to steal. Be cautious this Christmas season and don’t take chances with your hard-earned money.”

Two arrested after sting

Attorney General Strange, Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker and Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office representatives announced the arrests of Reiner Perez Rives, age 34 and Eunises Llorca Meneses, age 30.  Both are from the Orlando, Florida area and were caught there.

Rives and Meneses face charges from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office for Trafficking in Stolen Identities, Identity Theft and an Illegally Obtained or an Illegally Possessed Credit Card. Rives also awaits 15 counts of Identity Theft to be served by the Ozark Police Department. Additional charges may be filed in both jurisdictions and in surrounding states pending further review of recovered evidence and the identification of other victims.

On December 13, Ozark Police contacted the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to ask for help with about eight identity theft cases that had occurred within two days. Investigators traced five of the thefts to a local gas station where a skimming device wrapped in electrical tape was bundled with wires inside a gas pump.

Police traced one of the victim’s debit cards to an unauthorized purchase at a gas station in Bristol, Virginia and identified the two suspects.  They got surveillance video of the suspect’s license plate, which revealed a rental car linked to Reiner Perez Rives.

Investigators tracked the two to Texas.  The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office arrested them as they traveled back through Alabama.

Reiner Perez Rives, left, and Eunises Llorca Meneses, right (Photos: Baldwin County Jail)

Reiner Perez Rives, left, and Eunises Llorca Meneses, right (Photos: Baldwin County Jail)

The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and agents of the Attorney General’s Office seized from the suspects $6,490 in cash, 39 stolen debit card numbers with PINs and an additional 315 gift cards with an undetermined amount of personal information. Rives and Meneses are currently being held in the Baldwin County jail.

“Thanks to the vigilance of two south Alabama law enforcement agencies on opposite sides of the state working with investigators from the Attorney General’s Office, two operators of a multi-state debit card skimming operation are behind bars today and their crime spree is at an end,” said Attorney General Strange.

“I would like to commend the Ozark Police Department for alerting agents of the Attorney General’s Office to a string of identity thefts that quickly turned into a multi-state surveillance of two individuals believed to be stealing debit card pin numbers of customers at an Ozark gas station. Additionally, I want to personally thank the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office for assisting in the apprehension of the two suspects. This was a well-coordinated law enforcement operation that facilitated the quick identification and capture of these two individuals.”

Thus far, the Attorney General’s Office has determined that victims’ card information has been used by the suspects in Marianna, Midway, Ocala and Orlando, Florida; in Athens, Clanton, Falkville, Huntsville, Madison, Montgomery, and Prattville, Alabama; Baileytown, Bristol, Cookville, Kingston Knoxville, Lenoir City and Rockwood, Tennessee; and in Bristol, Ellison, Meadowview and Wytheville, Virginia.

“We are working with federal law enforcement and other local and state agencies throughout the southeast to identify other victims and more points of compromise. People living near or traveling through these areas should check their bank and credit card statements for any unusual activity and report it to their local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Strange.