GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of nine people arrested last year in a scheme to steal the personal information of unsuspecting gas station customers in West Michigan will serve time in a federal prison.
In a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids on Monday, Juan Ledesma was sentenced to five years, three months in prison and three years of supervised release. He’ll also have to pay $50,963.75 in restitution.
Ledesma, 24, was sentenced for attempt and conspiracy to commit fraud. Two other counts against him, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, were dismissed.
Ledesma was among nine people arrested last fall and accused in a scheme to install devices called “skimmers” in pumps at area gas stations. The skimmers steal customers’ credit or debit card information so the crooks can use it to make fraudulent purchases.
He and seven of the suspects were charged federally. An eighth person, 17-year-old Maria Sanchez-Figueredo, faced charges at the state level and in February pleaded no contest to conducting criminal enterprises. All of the suspects have ties to Miami, Florida.
Ledesma has been in trouble with the law since he was 13, Target 8 found when searching criminal records. In February 2005, he was charged with possession of a weapon/firearm on school property. He pleaded not guilty and was sent to a diversion program. Two years later, as a juvenile he pleaded guilty to burglary. In 2009, he was arrested and charged with two counts of armed robbery and was sentenced to prison as an adult. He was just released from prison last summer.
Skimming devices are often placed at pumps farthest from the station, where workers wouldn’t be able to see someone tampering with the pump. Gas stations that close at night are also often targeted. In response to them being found in West Michigan, many gas stations now place a sticker over the pump that will change color to indicate the pump has been tampered with.
If you notice fraudulent charges on your card statement and think you may be a victim of skimming, you should contact your bank and local police. You can also call the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Weights and Measures Division at 517.655.8202.