Home Local News Four Lea men accused in $42,408 fuel card fraud

Four Lea men accused in $42,408 fuel card fraud

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Lea County Sheriff Office deputies arrested four men for credit card fraud after they allegedly charged approximately $42,408.78 worth of unauthorized transactions to a fuel card for an oilfield business.

Fernando Esparza-Gonzales, 35, of Loving-ton; Ruben Rios-Alvidrez, 45, of Hobbs; Saul Hernandez, 40, of Eunice; and Juan Lozano-Plascencia, 38, of Lovington, were all arrested on July 13 and charged with conspiracy and fraudulent transfer or receipt of credit cards, both fourth-degree felonies; and fraudulent use of a credit card, over $2,500 under $20,000, a third-degree felony.

According to the LCSO criminal complaint, on May 18, deputies responded to the 8400 block N. Dal Paso street in reference to a report of credit card fraud.

Deputies were met by the owner of the oilfield business who said there were several unauthorized transactions uncovered during a financial audit of the companies’ fuel cards.

The business owner provided deputies with a list of the unauthorized transactions between January and May. The amount of these transactions totaled approximately $42,408.78, with a maximum of $150 per transaction and $450 maximum per day.

According to deputies, based on the transaction list, video surveillance from a local convenience store was recovered and reviewed by deputies. Based on the review of the footage a suspected truck was identified and on May 20, an investigatory stop was conducted on the suspected truck and driver.

THE DRIVER OF THE VEHICLE was identified as Lozano-Plascencia and he was transported to the LCSO for questioning.

Lozano-Plascencia allegedly admitted to using the fuel card and stated he was “renting the fuel card from Jesus Perez for $250 per day.” Lozano-Plascencia said the card could be used three times a day, with a limit of $450 per day and told deputies the pin code for the card as well.

Lozano-Plascencia also allegedly told deputies he met with a “Hispanic male on April 3, to pick up the card a the parking lot of a (convenience store) … in Hobbs.”

According to Lozano-Plascencia, another individual by the name of Juan Perez provided a phone number to contact the Hispanic male with the fuel card and on April 13. The driver allegedly met with the Hispanic male at the convenience store to return the fuel card.

Lozano-Plascencia told deputies his cousin Fernando Esparza allegedly rented the fuel card as well, and admitted “to knowing that it was some sort of trickery ‘transa’ with the fuel card.”

According to deputies, Lozano-Plascencia had the fuel card on him at the time of the interview and was able to provide a phone number for the individual he was “renting” the fuel card from as well as admitting to knowing that individual for approximately 12 years. He was also able to provide a text where Juan Perez gave him a phone number to contact someone for the fuel card along with the pin number for the card.

Lozano-Plascencia also provided to deputies text messages between himself and Perez where Lozano allegedly sent pictures of the receipts showing payments to the Perez family for the fuel card rental.

Lozano-Plascencia identified two possible suspects, from a photo loineup, who handed him the fuel card and one was later identified as Saul Hernandez.

Hernandez allegedly handed the fuel card to Lozano on April 3 and all of the “transfers” for the fuel card were conducted at the same convenience store parking lot.

The oilfield business confirmed a Juan Perez was an ex-employee and had last performed work for the company in June of 2020.

According to deputies, when reviewing convenience store video footage on April 3, deputies allegedly observed a GMC truck meeting with a flatbed truck on the southeast corner of the store, a male exited the flatbed truck, approached the GMC driver side door and a quick interaction occured between the two.

The driver of the flatbed was identified as Lozano-Plascencia and the driver of the GMC was identified as the “heavy built Hispanic male.”

Deputies reviewed more of the video feed for the store on April 13 and allegedly observed the GMC drive in front of the convenience store before meeting in the southeast corner of the store with Lozano-Plascencia. Lozano-Plascencia admitted to meeting with a “heavy built Hispanic male” driving a GMC and handed the driver the fuel card.

According to the report, deputies also observed a F-150 with a company emblem and two fuel tanks on the bed of the truck being fueled by Alejandro Rios.

The company’s vehicle was registered to an address in Eunice and business owner Saul Hernandez.

According to deputies, several unauthorized transactions were conducted via the fuel card in March, April, and May. From April 3 to April 13, Hernandez was observed on video allegedly handing the fuel card to Lozano on April 3 and Lozano returned the fuel card to Hernandez on April 13.

Rios allegedly admitted to deputies to using the fuel card and is currently employed by the oilfield business in Eunice owned by Hernandez.

“Rios stated the owner Saul Hernandez provided him with the fuel card and the pin number to fuel the tanks located on the bed of the white F-150,” the report states. “Rios stated the fuel that was in the tanks were used in the semi-trucks belonging to (the business in Eunice).”

According to Rios, the fuel card was also used on a business semi-truck route to drop off water in Bloomfield, New Mexico, and the three trucks were fueled on this route using the fuel card.

Rios allegedly identified a Juan Perez Villarreal from a photo lineup as the person who Saul Hernandez had Rios meet to retrieve the fuel card.

“Hernandez admitted to having his employee Alejandro Rios meet with the Hispanic male to fuel the tanks located on the bed of the F-150,” the report states. “Hernandez stated he did ask Rios to meet up with a Hispanic male (four or five) times to fuel up. Hernandez stated the Hispanic male owed him $2,000 and was letting him pay with fuel.”

According to the report, 18 unauthorized transactions were conducted in Bloomfield, Nageezi and Bernalillo — all matching the time frame Hernandez’s trucks were traveling in the area.

LCSO deputies observed video of Hernandez arriving for an interview at the LCSO and saw Hernandez’s vehicle matched the description of the vehicle meeting Lozano on April 3 and April 13.

GONZALES ALLEGEDLY ADMITTED to utilizing the fuel card and stated he rented the fuel card for half of the fuel price and “maxed out the card approximately four times.”

“Fernando admitted to knowing that it was some sort of trickery ‘transa’ with the fuel card, but let his greed get the best of him,” the report states. “Fernando stated he had given his cousin (Juan Lozano-Plascencia) approximately $2,0000 to pay for the fuel card rental.”

Deputies contacted Juan Perez who said he had turned in his fuel card to the oilfield business when he ceased to work there.

According to the arrest report, unauthorized transactions directly connected to Juan Perez Villarreal amounted to approximately $25,525.72.

Rios-Alvidrez and Esparza-Gonzales were released on an unsecured bonds of $5,000 each. They are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 18 before Hobbs Magistrate Clipper Miller. Lozano-Plascencia was released on an unsecured bond of $5,000. He is scheduled to appear before Miller on Aug. 12.

Hernandez was released on an unsecured bond of $5,000, and is scheduled to appear before Magistrate Willie Henry.

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