Sheriff: Fuel thief likely tied to ‘fuel farms’ - FOX 13 News

Sheriff: Fuel thief likely tied to ‘fuel farms’

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

When 20-year-old Noel Perez Parataga was arrested Wednesday, deputies say he had nearly 90 cards with magnetic strips with him, each re-coded with stolen credit information. 

They say he was using them to purchase diesel fuel around Polk County.

"Pump normally $100 of fuel to a hidden gas compartment that goes through what appears to be a normal gas tank," Sheriff Grady Judd described. 

Turns out the sheriff says diesel wasn't for him, but likely being collected for what are known as fuel farms. 

"They have fuel farms and many times they sell to small independent truckers at a hugely discounted rate," said Sheriff Judd.  "He is just one cog in a very big machine."

In fact, the sheriff said the data on those magnetic strips came from a security breach at a grocery store in the Midwest.

Parataga is facing a slew of charges, including trafficking in stolen credit cards and obtaining fuel fraudulently. 

The scheme is enough to leave customers fuming.  Polk deputies are now part of a joint investigation alongside FDLE and the secret service into the scam. 

Sheriff Judd says Polk County was the wrong place to try this business. 

"Their goal is to stay under the radar screen but their right in the middle of our radar screen, and we're going to put them in jail," he said.

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