It’s a pump-and-dumps scheme.
Four Florida men were busted for installing devices inside gas pumps that dropped prices down to nearly nothing — an alarming trend that officials said will only spread with fuel costs soaring.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the suspects installed sophisticated “pulsators” inside pumps that regulate price and fuel flow.
The devices sent per-gallon costs plunging down to just pennies and allowed pumpers to fill up almost for free.
The fraudsters allegedly pulled off the scheme at two separate Circle K stations in Lakeland and Lutz.
Rogelio Llerena and Yulier Garcia-Martinez were busted on March 12 while topping off an oversize gas tank in Lakeland.
Garcia-Martinez even had a remote device to manipulate the pulsators, officials said.
Yordian Diaz-Benitez, of Tampa, was arrested at a Lutz station for stealing diesel fuel on March 10. Marlon Rosel-Rodriguez was cuffed two days later for attempting to place the device inside a pump at the same station.
Ned Bowman, president of the Florida Department of Agriculture, said skyrocketing gas costs have fraudsters licking their chops.
“These are criminal rings,” Bowman told The Post. “I think you are going to see this expand.”
Bowman said the schemers pull up to compromised pumps with large trucks containing oversize tanks and fill up on the cut-rate fuel before reselling it at a steep profit.
With Florida gas prices flirting with $5 per gallon and gas thieves able to fill up for pocket change, Bowman said, the practice damages both merchants and regular patrons.
“It’s a big deal,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies have warned station owners to look out for trucks stopped at pumps for unusually long periods.
Worried station clerks are also cross-checking their inventory outflow and income to check for hacked pumps.
“With gas prices hitting record highs, fuel theft can further drive up costs for all consumers,” said FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried in a statement.