AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Sid Miller says there are mobsters coming after your money in Texas.
The Texas Agriculture Commissioner said this week his office has found an increase of credit card skimmers planted at gas pumps around the state, particularly in Central Texas lately.
“We are cracking down on them,” Miller said. “Their technology is getting more sophisticated. We are having to change our techniques.”
In addition to its more appropriately named agriculture duties, the department also tracks skimmers.
“Our skimmer units are out there working daily to protect the Texas consumer,” Miller said.
Miller explained a rise of international offenders, targeting Texas gas stations.
“It’s mainly mafia driven, foreign mafia groups,” Miller said. “Most of them are in Cuba, there’s a small group out of Russia. So, it’s international crime. Secret Service gets involved with us.”
A special agent with the Secret Service confirmed Tuesday the federal agency works with state and local officials to track the devices, and the people who plant them.
Miller’s claim is backed up by statistics out of East Texas. Dozens of Cuban nationals have been arrested in the last year and a half on organized crime charges relating to credit card skimmers.
“We’ve just investigated this to a higher level,” Tyler Police Sergeant Adam Colby said last year. “Most of the people we have arrested have been arrested at felony level of Engaging in Organized Crime.”
Leaders within the Texas Department of Agriculture are not sure exactly how many of the thieves are foreign mafia mobsters.
“That’s probably a better question for law enforcement out there who’s working on this,” Dan Hunter, a deputy commissioner in the department, said. “I don’t know if they have a number.”
“The reality is that we do know this— this is not some random rogue petty criminal out there who is just deciding to get into the skimmer business. This is big money,” Hunter explained.
If you think your card information has been compromised, you’re encouraged to contact police and file a complaint with the Texas Department of Agriculture by calling 1-800-TELL-TDA or online at TexasAgriculture.Gov.
The department can only check a pump when a complaint has been filed. Miller has asked lawmakers to give his team the ability to check pumps without law enforcement presence, but an effort to strip the skimmer operations from the department has already cleared the state Senate and is up for a Wednesday vote in the Texas House.
Here is a map of complaints filed in 2018 through the Texas Department of Agriculture in Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties.
Erin Cargile and Sarah Rafique contributed to this report.