Off duty HPD officer helps solve multi-million dollar crime ring
HATTIESBURG, MS. - An off-duty Hattiesburg police officer helped HPD detectives and Secret Service solve a multi-million dollar crime ring.
Since last year HPD received multiple reports of card skimmers inside gas pumps. The card skimmers would collect consumers' financial information anytime they swiped their card.
Officer David Wynn II pulled into an Exxon Gas station on West 4th street July 8 to put gas in his vehicle.
Office Wynn observed a dark tinted SUV pull into a gas pump. “The back door was open and the door to the pump was open and I saw wires hanging out from the pump door" said Officer Wynn.
He immediately alerted HPD dispatch and provided a description of the vehicle and license plate. “When they saw me watching them, they jumped in the truck and fled.”
Police officers stopped the two subjects during a traffic stop. Authorities arrested Yadian Valdes and Juan Barja.
HPD Detective Gareth Wood said, "They have all been part of a crew here in Hattiesburg over the Christmas period installing card skimmers inside gas pumps.”
Officers arrested Valdes and Barja for Conspiracy to commit a felony. Valdes was also wanted out of Arkansas for larceny and was charged with fugitive of other jurisdiction too.
Detective Wood contacted the Secret Service and discovered Valdes to be the 2nd man in charge of a multi-million dollar crime ring.
“But it’s big and really now we are able to get this information and use it to close out other cases and really give people a peace of mind" said Detective Wood.
Police said the discovery led to numerous arrests and seizures of assets. “As a cop we are on duty 24/7 we are trained to be vigilant and be aware of our surroundings" said Officer Wynn.
Office Wynn said he owes it to his training and being at the right place at the right time.
He said, "My favorite saying is keep your head on a swivel.”
This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with additional information should contact HPD or Metro Crime Stoppers.