Secret Service calls gas pump manipulator legislation a ‘game changer’

News 6 Investigation led push for legislation that faces votes in Florida committees

ORLANDO, Fla. – Committees in the Florida House and Senate have been assigned to review identical bills that include proposed felony charges for anyone who “tampers with, manipulates, removes, replaces, or interrupts any mechanical or electronic component located within a retail fuel dispenser.”

Last week, the state Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism unanimously approved SB 1150.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, emphasizes the so-called gas pump manipulator or any device that is used to alter gas pumps will be charged with a second or third-degree felony.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, was briefed by the Orlando Secret Service and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigators last year on how the device works and the financial impact, estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars every month statewide.

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The meeting was coordinated by News 6.

“I’m looking forward to helping move this along through all the committees,” Stewart told News 6. “I want to thank you and everybody for bringing it to our attention because had you not done that we would not be where we are today.”

Senior Special Agent Roger Fuentes told News 6 the legislation is a “game changer” for law enforcement because it would provide a state law for agents to hold thieves accountable.

The veteran Secret Service agent has led a task force of federal, state and local agencies to track groups using the handmade devices to steal, then sell stolen diesel fuel for half the price.

“It’s word of mouth, kind of an apprentice system,” Fuentes said. “Somebody shows somebody, who shows somebody else, who shows somebody else.”

Fuentes told News 6 intel confirms there is no assembly line building the devices, “more like a homegrown factory.”

Senate bill 1150 faces two more committee votes while the identical bill on the House side, HB 1307 sponsored by State Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, has three hearings.

If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.