State investigation uncovers East Texas diesel pump tampering ring

Several suspects have been arrested in connection with an organized method of stealing fuel.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 11:51 AM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Several suspects have been arrested in connection with a sophisticated method of stealing fuel.

An affidavit from a Master Peace Officer regarding several arrests in connection with the theft of tens of thousands of dollars worth of diesel from stations all across the region has been released. The method used to steal the fuel is called “pulsar tampering,” in which the fuel pump is essentially tricked into thinking it’s dispensing far less fuel than it is.

The document said that a pulsar device is a part of the pump which “counts” the amount of fuel that’s being pumped. People involved in this kind of tampering crime will remove important parts of the pulsar and attach a battery-operated device, which causes the pulsar to “count” much slower. This results in the pump charging for less than 1/20 of the amount of fuel that was actually pumped. This report said that this stolen fuel is then resold at a rate that significantly undercuts the market price, while still resulting in a massive profit for the thieves.

The widespread investigation was conducted from June 16 to Aug. 25, 2022, and covered many jurisdictions across northeast Texas. The results appear to show that many fuel stations were affected by the same group of scammers using this pulsar tampering method, who also appeared to be using stolen debit and credit cards for the criminal purchases.

The areas involved in the investigation were listed as follows:

  • The city of Garland, in which a suspect driving a white Dodge Ram 2500 filled a concealed “bladder fuel cell” in the truck bed with diesel. It was later discovered that the station’s in-ground diesel tank was short by 2,650 gallons. Investigators reportedly found a pulsar tampering device in the affected pump.
  • The city of Heartland, in which three vehicles appeared to steal 2,100 gallons of fuel, which the station valued at $10,899. They also reportedly caused $4,877.75 worth of damage to the pump, presumably by implementing the pulsar tampering device.
  • The city of Kemp, in which the affected station reported “hundreds of gallons” of fuel had been stolen in the same fashion.
  • The city of Canton, in which an undetermined amount of gas was reportedly stolen in the same fashion.
  • The city of Mabank, in which 119 gallons of fuel were reported missing from the affected station, as well as an estimated $1,099.67 worth of damage to the pulsar device.
  • The city of Lindale, in which two stations were affected. The first lost a reported 1,783 gallons of fuel, valued at $7,827.41 in the report, and the second lost 709 gallons valued at $3,183.41.
  • The city of Palestine, in which 264 gallons of diesel were stolen throughout the night, which the station valued at $1,214.14.
  • The city of Elkhart, in which an estimated $1,996 worth of diesel was stolen in the same fashion.
  • The city of Northlake, in which around 3,500 to 3,800 gallons of fuel was stolen in the same fashion.
  • Smith County, in which 504 gallons valued at $2,200 were stolen in the same fashion.
  • The city of Plano, in which the affected station lost 355 gallons of fuel. The report noted that the pump showed that only 7.8 gallons had been dispensed at the time of theft.

By use of security cameras and payment records at each station, the suspects were able to be connected to each other. The vehicles used during the connected incidents were each seen at several affected stations, and there appeared to be only a handful of debit, credit, and gift cards used to conduct the thefts, several of which were stolen.

As a result, the cited arrest warrant was issued for Ramon Perez Torrez, 29, of Mesquite, for the charge of organized criminal activity. Torres is being held in the Smith County Jail on a $750,000 bond. Duniesky Ondarza Gonzalez, 36, of Dallas, and Camila Cruz Concepcion, 25, of Dallas, have also been arrested for the same charge, and are being held in Smith County on their own $750,000 bonds.

The affidavit lists four other suspects, but it is not known if they have been arrested.