Three accused of using credit card skimmer

OKEECHOBEE — In completely unrelated incidents, an unresponsive man and a credit card skimmer were located at the Fort Drum Service Plaza, almost a day apart.

On Monday, Feb. 20, at approximately 3:30 p.m., members of the Florida Highway Patrol were at the Fort Drum Service Plaza on the Florida Turnpike due to the increase in thefts that have occurred over the past several months. Allegedly, three Hispanic males were observed at different locations inside the plaza displaying very peculiar and observant mannerisms. One of the subjects, wearing a grey t-shirt and black shorts, was stationed at the south front entrance and continued to observe the movement of troopers throughout the interior of the plaza while constantly talking on his phone. According to the report, he continued to stay positioned at the front entrance and never left that location until he exited the building.

The second male subject, also wearing a grey t-shirt but with dark blue jeans, reportedly took up a location near the ATM machine inside the service plaza. The subject remained in the same location throughout the duration of his visit to the service plaza. He never once spoke to anybody or attempted to purchase items from the service plaza, stated the report.

He also kept a visual on the troopers as they walked through the service plaza.

The third male subject, wearing a pair of black rim glasses, a white t-shirt and jeans, continued to walk back and forth in an allegedly deliberate manner inside the service plaza. According to the report, he also did not speak to or engage anyone within the service plaza, but did continue to observe the troopers. All three subjects reportedly seemed nervous and looked as if they were uncomfortable with law enforcement being in the general area.

The decision was made to have the troopers exit the service plaza, continued the report, in order to observe the subjects from a distance. After approximately 45 minutes, the male subject wearing the grey t-shirt and jeans and the subject wearing the black rim glasses exited the plaza. Both suspects allegedly walked due south from the plaza entrance toward the rear of the parking lot. They then allegedly began walking east toward the side of the parking lot.

Yasmany J. Castillo

Once they reached the last aisle, continued the report, they turned toward a beige Ford Explorer. The subject with the black rim glasses entered the vehicle at the rear passenger seat location while the other subject entered the vehicle at the driver location. After about five minutes, stated the report, the third subject, who was wearing shorts, exited the service plaza and entered the beige Ford Explorer on the right front passenger side. All three subjects sat in the vehicle for allegedly three or four minutes.

Miguel Angel Vanegas Leon

Due to their bizarre behavior of loitering or prowling in the service plaza and continual observation of law enforcement’s movements throughout the service plaza, the decision was made to question the subjects. As the subjects exited the vehicle, a Husky tool pouch was purportedly observed with tools and a credit card skimmer inside. A subsequent search of the vehicle allegedly produced a laptop computer and a Bank of America debit card with the name of one of the subjects hidden in the back of the front passenger seat.

Rafael Telmo Gerardo Cortavitarte

All three subjects were taken into custody without incident. Miguel Angel Vanegas Leon, 35, of an unknown address in Miami; Rafael Telmo Gerardo Cortavitarte, 31, also of an unknown address in Miami; and Yasmany J. Castillo, 32, of 1061 E. 19th St., Hialeah, were arrested on felony charges possession of burglary tools, use of a scan device pay card to defraud, and receiving and selling credit card machine plates. No bond was set.

In an unrelated incident at the Fort Drum Service Plaza, on Feb. 21 at 1:57 a.m. Trooper K. Gutierrez was dispatched to the scene, along with Sergeant Donald Ellis of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO).

Juan Rivera

Trooper Guiterrez allegedly observed an unresponsive male in a blue Honda Accord. According to the report, the male was slumped over the steering wheel. Sgt. Ellis stated that the vehicle was still in drive with the keys in the ignition. The driver allegedly had his foot on the brake. Okeechobee Fire and Rescue responded to the scene and were able to get the male to wake up, and the man, later identified as Juan Rivera, was confused and could barely stand, according to the report.

Upon making contact with Dispatch and relaying information about Rivera, Trooper Gutierrez and Sgt. Ellis were informed that Rivera had multiple warrants, two of which are for vehicle theft. Dispatch also allegedly confirmed through Miami Dade Police Department that the Honda was stolen.

According to the report, a hand search of the vehicle revealed multiple small baggies with a white substance located on the front driver’s side floor, as well as on the driver’s seat. On top of the center console purportedly sat a small foil with a blue substance. In addition, on the passenger side seat, was a grey sunglass case containing two needles and a cracked glass pipe.

Based upon Trooper Gutierrez’s training and experience, he purportedly identified these items as being used for cocaine. As Fire and Rescue was evaluating Rivera, the trooper noticed Rivera had fresh puncture marks on his right arm and some blood. Rivera was transported to Raulerson Hospital.

Sgt. Ellis purportedly followed the ambulance to the hospital while Trooper Gutierrez stayed to clear the scene.

After towing the vehicle, Trooper Gutierrez went to Raulerson Hospital and allegedly asked Rivera to provide a blood sample. Rivera was then arrested on felony charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle and possession of cocaine, as well as misdemeanor charges of DUI alcohol or drugs, operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, and five counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. No bond was set.

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