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Man arrested in gas station ‘skimming’ scheme

One of five skimming devices detectives say they removed from credit card readers at gas pumps around Albuquerque over the past month. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

Jose Dieguez-Pineda, 44 (MDC)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Almost a year after credit card “skimming” devices installed in gas pumps around town were used to steal more than $10,000 from hundreds of Albuquerque residents, police have arrested one of the people who they said was responsible.

Jose Dieguez-Pineda, 44, was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center Sunday from where he was being held in the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, according to online jail records.

He is charged with forgery of a credit card, two counts of fraudulent signing of a credit card slip, two counts of identity theft and two counts of conspiracy.

It is unclear why he was arrested in Texas or how long he had been there.

Officer Simon Drobik, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said the original investigator on the case has since retired, and he did not answer several emailed questions Tuesday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, police began investigating last March when they learned “skimmers” had been installed in gas pumps credit card readers to copy the information. The devices used Bluetooth technology to upload the card’s information to a computer, tablet or smartphone and the fraudsters then programed it onto a blank card, according to the complaint.

Police were able to track down where the cloned cards were being used and released surveillance footage of the suspects. Tips began to come in.

According to the complaint, a woman identified two of the men in the pictures as Dieguez-Pineda and Francisco Figueroa-Martinez, 45.

In a late-March news conference, detectives announced they had filed arrest warrants for Dieguez-Pineda, Figueroa-Martinez and Daimarelis Ramirez-Borges, 19. They were also looking for Borge Cabrea Roiber, 43, as a person of interest and possibly two other suspects. They said they believed the suspects had left Albuquerque.

From online court records, it does not appear as though Figueroa-Martinez or Ramirez-Borges have been arrested, but Drobik did not confirm either way. He did not respond to questions about whether any other suspects had been identified or arrested.

In a court appearance Tuesday morning, background investigators said Dieguez-Pineda, who used a Spanish-language translator, had been in Albuquerque for six years and had been charged with two felonies in the past but had never been convicted. In April 2016, he had been charged with five counts of fraudulent signing of a credit card. That case is pending.

Judge Renee Torres followed the state’s recommendation and released him on his own recognizance.