Three accused identity thieves from Miami who tried to steal credit card information using a electronic skimming device were stymied Monday by a quick-thinking business employee and a nearby deputy, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.
Two men walked into the Advanced Auto Parts at Mile Marker 99 at 10:30 a.m. Monday and while one worked as the lookout, the other hooked up a small purple electronic skimmer to the cashier's computer in an effort to download customer transaction data that could include credit card and other financial information, Ramsay said.
"We're having our computer experts examine this device to see just how successful they were at getting that information," Ramsay said. "There could be more information on it from other cases, and we could be sharing that with agencies from other counties. There could be thousands of victims out there. We have to get inside this reader device and see."
An employee then noticed the pair, who ran out, jumped into a waiting blue 2004 Dodge Durango with a third man in it that nearly hit a pedestrian while fleeing, according to arrest reports.
The vehicle headed north, reports say, and Deputy E.B. Askins eventually spotted it at Mile Marker 101.
Askins stopped the SUV, and found the skimmer about 30 feet from the vehicle after Detective Sgt. David Carey described it over the radio, Ramsay said.
All three men were arrested: Amaury Medero, 40, was charged with accessing a computer without permission, possession of a fake credit card, use of a fake credit card, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault.
Medero had on him a fake credit card he used to make a $14 purchase at the store as well as the receipt for the purchase, reports say.
• The accused lookout, Leandry Parada-Martinez, 20, was charged with being a principal to the alleged crimes Medero committed.
• Manuel Parada, 40, the alleged getaway driver, was also charged with being a principal, as well as with aggravated assault.
Parada and Parada-Martinez told detectives Medero "stole something from behind the counter," reports say.
Witnesses at the store reportedly identified all three men.
Ramsay described this case as "one of the most brazen" identity theft-related incidents in recent Keys history.
"To actually plug something into a cash register during normal daylight working hours is really, really bold," Ramsay said. "It's unusual and it tells me this probably isn't the first time these guys have done this."
Medero remained at Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island Tuesday night in lieu of $50,000 bail. Parada was there under $25,000 bail; and Parada-Martinez remained jailed with no bail set.