Thieves make off with hundreds of dollars by placing skimming devices in gas pumps

Posted at 4:42 PM, Apr 27, 2017

Norton police are searching for one man and trying to identify a second man suspected of hiding a skimmer on a gas pump in order to steal personal information from several victims.

Detective Ryan Connell says five theft reports from a Circle K gas station on Cleveland-Massillon Road appear to be connected.

RELATED: Credit card skimmer found at Oakwood Village gas station

Multiple other skimming crimes have recently been reported in Barberton, Wadsworth and Tallmadge and could be related to the Norton cases.

On Thursday, arrest warrants were issued for Eddy Pimental-Vila, 45, of New Jersey. He's charged with telecommunications fraud, misuse of a credit card and theft.

Investigators released surveillance pictures of Pimental-Vila and an unidentified accomplice.

In late March, officers started to receive reports of multiple fraudulent credit or debit card transactions from residents. All of them made their last transactions at the Circle K.

Detectives went to the gas station to inspect the pumps but learned the pumps had been changed. Investigators located the old pump and found a skimmer inside of it.

RELATED: Why you might see more credit card skimmers at gas pumps

"The face of the pump actually had to be removed. The skimming device goes in and the face goes back up so the victim never even knew it was there," Connell said.

A few days after Kathi Corathers, 69, bought gas at the station, money started disappearing from her bank account.

She noticed unauthorized charges of nearly $450 in gift cards at a Lowe's in Wooster and an Auto Zone in Brunswick.

"It was just such a sense of panic. I couldn't hardly type on the computer I was shaking so bad," Corathers said. "Just to know all of a sudden I had no money in the bank. I mean, they took it down to $25.

Corathers got her money back, but the experience of having her personal information stolen remains scary and frustrating.

"They need to go to jail. I'll pay for them to go to jail just to stop them," she said. 

Detectives said, in many skimming cases, the crooks use a credit card making machine and then transfer the stolen account data from the skimmer to a magnetic strip on a bogus card.

Anyone with information is asked to call Summit County Crimestoppers at 330-430-COPS. Tipsters could be eligible for a reward up to $2,000.