O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
December 2017

Columnist — Joyce Trent

BOULDER — Authorities have arrested nine members of a Cuban gang of gas pump skimmers that targeted Colorado stations. Three other suspects are still at large.

Based in Miami, authorities said members flew into Colorado, rented a car, and hit multiple stations at a time. With the data obtained from credit cards they cloned cards and made purchases, defrauding 2,300 people.

Although Colorado was the main target, skimmers also made some forays into Cleveland and Chicago. The gang netted an estimated $2.5 million a week.

Colorado flag

Those in custody were apprehended as a result of a 16-month investigation spearheaded by Boulder County Sheriff's Detective Chris Fiegel, assisted by the FBI and several neighboring police and sheriff's departments.

"It's an epidemic," said Fiegel, "and hard to catch because skimmers are always changing their technology."

The crooks used Bluetooth so they didn't have to return to the pumps. "They could pull up and download the data to their iPhones."

Gasoline customers seldom had a clue the skimmers were in place because the thieves expertly taped the pumps back up with ribbon tape.

Identifying the victims took a long time because only four out of five reported the theft, Fiegel said.

Authorities think the same gang may be involved in a multi-million-dollar money laundering ring that the Secret Service is investigating.

How the Cuban nationals got into the United States was not disclosed.

PUEBLO — A chain of convenience stores that has been headquartered in this city since 1973 may be about to be sold.

Loaf 'n Jug was founded by Puebloans Paul Jones and Sam Sharp and today has more than 170 convenience stores in Colorado, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Kroger bought the chain in 1986 and later acquired Casper, WY.-based Mini-Mart, combining the two and continuing to base the chain in Pueblo.

Kroger said it is considering selling all its convenience stores, which also include KwikShop and Turkey Hill Mini Markets.

Kroger has to compete against mega chains 7-Eleven and Quebec, Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, which last year soared into second place in the battle for supremacy by buying CST Brands. "It just looks like the economics make sense to sell," Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said.

COLORADO SPRINGS — A convenience store clerk threatened with a knife checkmated four would-be robbers by producing her own box cutter.

Three females and one male entered the 7-Eleven store at 1 a.m. and started to load up merchandise. When the female clerk confronted them, she said she was told they had a knife. The clerk then pulled her box cutter from her pocket, prompting a mass exodus of the crooks. Three fled in a car. The remaining female was forced to hoof it out of the neighborhood.

COLORADO SPRINGS — A convenience store clerk was fired after unsuccessfully trying to thwart a robber.

Tonya Keller told an interviewer a man ambushed her in her office at a Western Convenience store after pretending he was interested in buying some rolling papers.

They got into a physical fight during which the robber reportedly told her he didn't want to hurt her. She responded, "Then leave," and he said, "Not without the money."

He won.

He forced her to open the register and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Keller said she was later fired for violating company policy. She said she was informed she had more money in the register than regulations called for.

All in all, it was a bad day for her.

LONGMONT — A gasoline station here advertises Indian goat curry on the front window.

At the rear of the Conoco station is an Indian buffet. After the clamshell-style take-out boxes are filled from the steam table, the diners head for the small banquette dining area in the front of the store. A shelf partition offers privacy from the main flow of commerce.

In addition to the curry, which comes in bite-size chunks complete with small bones, the menu includes chicken tikka masala, chicken curry, and other Indian staples as well as a daily Mexican special.

It is pay in advance at the buffet which can be open until 10 p.m., depending on how many customers there are.

PUEBLO — Loaf 'n Jug now offers healthier jerky and the chain hopes it will have appeal because of the cartoon characters on the cover.

Produced by Pearson Ranch, there is a choice of elk, buffalo, venison or wild boar. The covers feature cartoon characters of those animals dressed in human clothing. There will be prizes for winning submissions to name the creatures.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Thieves are becoming more emboldened at car washes.

A man stole a SUV from a Water Works by telling the attendant it was his vehicle and he was in a hurry.

He jumped in the driver's seat and sped away. Although he struck another vehicle he kept going but soon found the SUV too damaged to drive. Bleeding from the collision, he ran through a neighboring business and escaped. He better hope his DNA isn't on file.

COLORADO SPRINGS — A 12-year-old boy had a craving for a snack just before dawn and finding nothing appealing at home, he stole his sister's car keys and drove to a gasoline station.

He hit the curb at the station, damaging the car and bumping his elbow, but suffered no serious injuries. However, the accident attracted the attention of the clerk who called police. Instead of a snack he found himself surrounded by the law.

GRAND JUNCTION — A convenience store here lived up to its name and is $50,000 richer.

That is Lucky Me Super Store's prize for selling a winning Powerball ticket to a long-time customer. The customer's luck took a while in coming but her persistence finally paid off. Judy Finchum won $133 million, making her the biggest jackpot winner in Colorado history.

She played the same numbers at the store every week for 30 years. She and her husband, Mac, decided to take the full payout, which after taxes will leave them with $66 million.

She will retire. Her husband plans to fix up his truck, maybe replace it. They also are considering using some of the money for hurricane victim relief.

SHERIDAN — Metro Express Car Wash promised those bold enough to enter their facility over the Halloween weekend to "scare the dirt right off your car."

For twenty dollars the management gave vehicles its best wash and "five minutes of fright" in its Two Tunnels of Terror between 7 and 9 p.m. Creepy lights and sneaky villains plagued the motorists as they navigated through the pitch-black tunnels.

It was all for charity. The car wash, which bills itself as the largest in the country, donated one hundred percent of the proceeds to Children's Hospital. It was the second year in a row that the business conducted the spooky event.

THORNTON — Two dogs had the ride of their lives when a thief stole their owner's vehicle from a gas station, with them in the back seat.

The thief apparently found more trouble than he could cope with and dropped off the animals a few blocks away.

The owner, Jeremy Cooper, took to Facebook with a frantic plea to return his buddies, Scout and Axle.

That didn't work, but two Good Samaritans spotted the dogs wandering around looking for home, checked their tags and called Cooper.

Cooper's vehicle and cell phone were recovered later.

Cooper admitted he left the keys in his Land Cruiser to pop into the convenience store. Next time he stops for gasoline, he vowed, he would lock up and take the keys with him.

Originally published in the December 2017 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2017 by KAL Publications Inc.

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