LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Lee County Sheriff's Office arrested five people in connection to fuel thefts across the county.
The investigation began on May 10 when a detective with LCSO was alerted to a fuel theft at a Circle K in North Fort Myers.
The detective identified several vehicles and persons of interest in the case. Four vehicles were identified, all of which had storage tanks within or affixed to them.
As the investigation continued, LCSO learned of at least eight additional fuel thefts believed to have been committed by the same suspects.
On May 23, LCSO was alerted of sightings of each of the vehicles in the areas of Del Prado Blvd and Tamiami Trail N, the Caloosahatchee Bridge and State Road 82.
An LCSO detective drove to where one of the vehicles, a white Dodge Ram, was seen at a 7-Eleven on Tamiami Trail N. Once on scene the detective observed fuel being pumped into a black tank in the bed of the truck. He then observed the other three suspected vehicles pull into the parking lot and fill additional tanks with gas.
The detective called for additional units who were able to conduct traffic stops on all four vehicles.
Endris Ruiz Escalona, Luis Rene Sanchez Centella, Raul Gutierrez, Norberto Acosta Naranjo and Liliana Mendoza were all detained without incident. They are charged with transportation of a dangerous material, which is a traffic felony.
Further investigation found that the tanks used to store the gasoline did not comply with federal regulations and were not approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. A total of more than 330 gallons of gasoline had been collected.