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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Breaking the state's laws is a losing proposition. Read about those who found that out the hard way.

August 2019

Aug. 29

Pedro Leonard Fernandez-Bello, 24, of Houston was arrested for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to unlawfully obtain diesel fuel from a chain convenience store in Katy in June.

A store employee observed the suspect using “cloned” cards at one of the pumps and notified Katy police, who arrested him during a subsequent traffic stop. A search revealed a modified storage tank mounted in the bed of the suspect’s pickup truck, reports show.

Fernandez-Bello was indicted July 29 for motor fuel tax evasion and purchasing motor fuel with intent to evade tax. Each offense is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Local authorities also have charged Fernandez-Bello with felony credit/debit card abuse.

CID assisted the Katy Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Fort Bend County.

Aug. 15

Joel Issac Sotelo, 33, of Odessa was arrested for allegedly having 75 gallons of untaxed dyed diesel fuel in the supply tanks of his semi-tractor trailer rig.

The unlawfully used fuel was discovered during a traffic stop in Midland by a state trooper, who cited Sotelo for several alleged commercial operator violations. The suspect, who owns Optimus Trucking Co., reportedly admitted using dyed diesel in three of his trucks.

In Texas, non-taxable diesel fuel is dyed red to distinguish it from taxable diesel. Red-dyed diesel is authorized almost exclusively for off-road, agricultural use only by permit-holders.

Sotelo is charged with motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

CID assisted the Department of Public Safety and the Midland County District Attorney’s Office in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Midland County.

Aug. 14

Quang Buu Merideth, 53, of Grand Prairie pleaded guilty in Wood County court to an amusement machine violation, receiving deferred adjudication (no final conviction) and 12 months’ probation. He was assessed an $800 fine plus court costs and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

Merideth admitted having 20 “eight-liner”-type video games without tax decals in his Big Room game room in Mineola in 2017. A CID investigator discovered them during an inspection of the premises.

Merideth was charged with operating coin-operated amusement machines without a valid state license or certificate. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.

Aug. 13

Aliam Lazaro de Armas Correa, 30, of Houston pleaded guilty in a Waller County district court to a motor fuel transportation violation and received deferred adjudication (no final conviction) and four years’ probation. He was assessed a $1,000 fine plus court costs and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.

De Armas Correa admitted transporting motor fuel without a cargo manifest or shipping document, a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Other related cases dismissed in the plea agreement were motor fuel tax evasion, also a second-degree felony, and unlawful use of a criminal instrument (i.e., the truck he was driving), a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The defendant was arrested in late January for allegedly using a re-encoded charge card to unlawfully obtain $100 worth of diesel fuel from a Hempstead grocery store.

He was observed pumping diesel directly into an auxiliary “bladder” hidden in the bed of his pickup truck. The vehicle had been modified with hoses, nozzles and pumps to receive, transport and dispense large quantities of fuel. Officers confiscated several “cloned” gift cards.

Local authorities also had charged De Armas Correa with felony credit/debit card abuse and fraudulent use/possession of identifying information; both charges subsequently were dropped prior to indictment.

Aug. 11

Jose Luis Rodriguez Alvarez, 33, of Round Rock was arrested for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to obtain large quantities of diesel fuel at three Williamson County service stations.

A CID investigator initially spotted a suspicious cargo box van in Jarrell and alerted Georgetown police. During a subsequent stop and search, a CID investigator confiscated 23 “cloned” cards, most of which were in a trash bin, from the suspect, who was driving the van occupied by two other men. He claimed he used the diesel fuel in his car washing business.

Reports show the van was outfitted with four 250-gallon “tote” tanks in the cargo area linked together in the rear of the van. Two 75-gallon saddle tanks beneath the vehicle’s bed were connected to them with a hose. A power cord connected to a pump allowed for fuel transfer, according to reports.

Alvarez is charged with motor fuel tax evasion, transporting motor fuel without a cargo manifest or shipping document and fraudulent use/possession of identifying information. Each offense is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Records show a motion to revoke Alvarez’s probation for felony sexual assault is pending in Travis County.

The Georgetown Police Department assisted CID in apprehending the suspects in this case, which is pending prosecution in Williamson County.

Aug. 9

Khaldoun Hindi, 40, of Arlington was arrested for allegedly possessing unstamped cigarettes for sale at his Dallas convenience store.

During a retail tax inspection, an investigator discovered two unstamped cigarette packs, both less than full, near the cash register. Stamps are affixed to packs when tobacco taxes are paid.

The subsequent confiscation of 23 individual cigarettes was based on a tip that the Chevron Food Mart was selling tobacco, among other things, to minors, including single cigarettes.

Hindi, the store owner/operator, is charged with possession of less than 10,000 unstamped cigarettes, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.

The case is pending prosecution in Dallas County.

Yasmany Rodriguez Herrera, 31, of Dumas was arrested for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to obtain large quantities of diesel fuel from two Big Spring convenience stores.

A clerk notified local authorities that fraudulent fueling was under way. Upon arrival, police discovered the suspect pumping diesel fuel into an auxiliary tank located in the bed of his pickup truck. The officer confiscated several “cloned” credit cards, reports show.

Investigators determined that the suspect also obtained $100 worth of diesel fuel at another store on July 31. The card allegedly used belongs to an FBI agent, according to reports.

Herrera is charged with motor fuel tax evasion and fraudulent use/possession of identifying information. Each offense is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

He also is charged with credit/debit card abuse, a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.

CID assisted the Big Spring Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Howard County.

Aug. 7

Crystal Dawn Johnson, 46, a Weatherford auto dealer, was indicted for allegedly filing phony title documents and pocketing more than $2,000 in sales taxes collected from vehicle buyers in 2018.

She is charged with multiple counts of failure to remit tax collected and with tampering with a governmental record. Each offense is a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years.

The suspect is accused of altering the sales prices on 20 vehicle title applications submitted between March and December 2018 and withholding more than $2,000 in motor vehicle sales tax collected on the transactions.

CID assisted the Hood County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Hood County.

Aug. 6

Khalil Ryaad Shaker, 26, of Arlington was arrested for allegedly operating unlicensed amusement machines at his Fort Worth game room.

During a tax compliance inspection in July, investigators discovered two machines not having requisite state decals. Subsequent investigation revealed that no license or certificate had been issued for the game room, Jordan’s Warehouse.

Consequently, Shaker is charged with operating amusement machines without a license or registration, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.

The case is pending prosecution in Tarrant County.

Aug. 5

Rahim Karim Noorani, 41, of Carrollton was arrested for allegedly possessing unstamped cigarettes for sale at his Fort Worth convenience store.

During a retail tax inspection, investigators acting on a tip from city code enforcement officials discovered three unstamped cigarette packs, all less than full, near the cash register. Stamps are affixed to packs when tobacco taxes are paid.

The subsequent confiscation of 60 cigarettes was based on information that the Ocean 7 Food Mart was selling individual cigarettes at the direction of the store manager.

Noorani, the store owner/operator, is charged with possession of less than 10,000 unstamped cigarettes, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.

The case is pending prosecution in Tarrant County.

Aug. 1

Diamantina Solis Gonzales, 54, and Samantha Renee Gonzales, 31, both of Muleshoe were indicted for allegedly offering for sale large quantities of tobacco products on which no taxes had been paid.

During a tax compliance inspection in May, investigators discovered scores of packages of wraps, pipe and hookah tobacco at the Bad Habitz shop in Muleshoe. Further investigation revealed that state tobacco taxes had not been paid on the tobacco products in the retailers’ possession.

Each of the defendants is charged with possession of tobacco products on which more than $50 in taxes are due and unpaid. The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The case is pending prosecution in Bailey County.

Dairon Yoan Morales-Nunez, 24, of Houston was indicted for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to unlawfully obtain diesel fuel on two occasions in May from a supermarket pump station in Richmond.

Investigators with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) reportedly observed the defendant making multiple transactions and pumping the fuel into a pickup truck. Upon apprehension at the scene, they discovered that the vehicle was outfitted with a concealed auxiliary tank designed to receive, transport and dispense fuel, reports show.

The four-count indictment charges Morales-Nunez with motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, and with unlawful use of a criminal instrument (i.e., the truck), a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

CID assisted DPS in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Fort Bend County.

Dariel Martinez-Hernandez, 32, of Brandon, Fla. was indicted for allegedly making an unlicensed fuel transaction when using re-encoded charge cards to unlawfully obtain 174 gallons of diesel fuel from a Katy supermarket pumping station in June.

Engaging in a motor fuel transaction without holding the required license is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The defendant previously was indicted in June for motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, for failing to pay backup tax. Local authorities also charged him with felony credit card abuse.

The charges stem from his allegedly using one of 14 “cloned” credit cards to activate a pump to put diesel fuel into his pickup truck. Upon arresting him at the scene, Katy police discovered an auxiliary fuel tank concealed in the truck bed and linked to the primary tank.

A subsequent inspection by CID revealed that the metal canister contained 261 gallons of diesel. The truck also had been modified with hoses and nozzles to receive, transport and dispense large quantities of fuel, according to reports.

CID assisted the Katy Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Fort Bend County.

Lazaro Suarez, 27, of Houston pleaded guilty in a Harris County district court to a motor fuel tax violation and received four years’ probation, a $500 fine and 200 hours of community service.

Suarez admitted to engaging in a motor fuel transaction as an unlicensed transporter because he had no permit to do so. The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

He used re-encoded credit cards to unlawfully obtain motor fuel from a Houston convenience store in January 2018. His pickup truck contained an auxiliary storage tank concealed in the bed. It had been modified with pumps and nozzles to transport fuel, evidence showed.

CID assisted the Houston Police Department in the investigation of the case.

Jaime A. Castillo-Miranda, 30, of Galena Park was indicted for allegedly using a re-encoded credit card to unlawfully obtain large quantities of diesel fuel from a Baytown gas station in May.

He is charged with engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a license, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Local authorities also are charging him with fraudulent use/possession of identifying information (i.e., fewer than five “cloned” cards), a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years.

After the suspect was observed making the alleged transactions, Baytown police subsequently arrested him at a chain convenience store.

CID assisted the Baytown Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Harris County.


July 2019

July 30

Jose Luis Bell-Morales, 28, of Homestead, Fla. pleaded guilty in a Caldwell County district court to motor fuel tax evasion and received deferred adjudication (no final conviction) and six years’ probation. He was assessed a $1,000 fine plus court costs and ordered to pay $638 in restitution and perform 140 hours of community service.

The offense is a second-degree felony punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Bell-Morales admitted using a re-encoded credit card to unlawfully obtain more than 102 gallons of diesel fuel worth more than $265 from a Luling truck stop in January 2018.

July 25

Rosie Stevenson, 74, of Houston and Terry Sozanski, 56, Juliana M. Tychowskyj, 64, and Donald Dankowich, 66, all of Sugar Land were arrested after being indicted for allegedly stealing more than $17,000 from the Comptroller’s Unclaimed Property program in 2015.

All of the defendants were taken into custody in late June or July in Harris County except Sozanski, who was apprehended in North Dakota and extradited to Texas in early August.

Stevenson and Sozanski are accused of posing as agents for a pipeline company that had a claim on file. The foursome also is accused of trying to defraud the program out of more than $600,000 by posing as agents for two other Texas corporations with claims pending.

The businesses ranged from oil and gas exploration to a wrecker service and a florist.

Each defendant is charged with attempted theft of $300,000 or more, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. They also are charged with theft of property worth between $2,500 and $30,000 and with attempted theft of between $30,000 and $150,000. Each offense is a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition, Sozanski is charged with forgery, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, for allegedly falsifying a claim letter purportedly from a Missouri City attorney in 2016. Sozanski also is charged with three counts of tampering with a government document, a felony punishable by confinement in a state jail for six months up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000, for submitting false franchise tax reports.

Sugar Land police assisted CID in making two of the arrests. The cases are pending prosecution in Travis County.

July 18

Luis Angel Moreno Lopez, 50, of Houston was indicted for allegedly using re-encoded credit cards to unlawfully obtain more than 95 gallons of diesel fuel worth almost $250 from a chain convenience store in Pearland in March.

The defendant was part of a foursome driving a pickup truck and a box truck. Both vehicles had been modified with hoses, nozzles, electric pumps and auxiliary tanks mounted in the beds to receive, transport and dispense fuel, according to reports. The suspects reportedly were passing charge cards to each other between the two vehicles.

Store employees observed the illegal transactions and alerted Pearland police. They claim that the suspects attempted to conceal and dispose of their wallets and 49 “cloned” cards recovered when police arrived.

Moreno Lopez is charged with engaging in a fuel transaction without a license, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Local authorities also have charged him with unlawful use of a criminal instrument and fraudulently using identification.

CID assisted the Pearland Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Brazoria County.

July 10

Arnaldo Yuriel Armas-Garcia, 35, of Fountain, Colo. and Yusniel Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 36, of Lexington, Neb. were arrested for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to unlawfully obtain diesel fuel from a chain convenience store in Katy in May.

A store employee reportedly observed the defendants using “cloned” credit cards to obtain diesel fuel and contacted Katy police.

After stopping their pickup truck, officers discovered a modified tank mounted in the truck bed. The vehicle had been further modified with hoses and nozzles to receive, transport and dispense large quantities of fuel, according to reports.

For failing to pay the required backup tax, Armas-Garcia and Gonzalez-Rodriguez were both indicted in June for motor fuel tax evasion, as well as purchasing motor fuel intending to evade tax, both second-degree felonies punishable by imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. They also are charged with unlawful use of a criminal instrument (i.e., the truck), a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

In addition, local authorities are charging both defendants with felony credit card abuse.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office assisted CID in arresting Armas-Garcia upon indictment. Gonzalez-Rodriguez was arrested in Nebraska and extradited to face charges in Texas.

CID assisted the Katy Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Fort Bend County.

William Froelim Euceda, 46, of Harlingen was indicted for allegedly offering for sale at three convenience stores tobacco products on which he owed several hundred dollars in state taxes last October.

Euceda is charged with possessing tobacco products having more than $50 in taxes due. The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

During an inspection, investigators reportedly found tobacco wrapping papers ordered on line from an out-of-state wholesale distributor that does not have a Texas tobacco tax permit. An analysis of records determined that other tobacco products also had been purchased through the internet without paying Texas taxes.

The case is pending prosecution in Cameron County.

Raunel Pinero-Dieguez, 45, of San Antonio pleaded no contest in a Bexar County district court to unlawful fuel transportation, receiving deferred adjudication (no final conviction) and three years’ probation. He also was fined $1,450 and ordered to pay court costs.

Pinero-Dieguez admitted transporting diesel fuel without proper documentation, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Dismissed in the plea agreement were three other related charges: motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine; engaging in a motor fuel transaction without a transporter's license, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine; and felony credit card abuse.

Pinero-Dieguez and a co-defendant allegedly used a re-encoded fleet credit card to unlawfully obtain diesel fuel from a San Antonio gas company's unmanned card lock location in June 2018.

July 9

Mamoon Ahmad Allan, 33, of Pflugerville was arrested for allegedly possessing untaxed tobacco.

In January, investigators conducted a compliance inspection at Allan’s place of business, Smoke Shop Boulevard, in Austin. They reportedly discovered and seized numerous individual tobacco products for which no invoices could be produced, including wraps, cigars, cigar cones and hookah tobacco.

Allan was indicted in June for possession of tobacco products on which $50 or more in taxes are due, as well as failure to maintain books and records of tobacco transactions. Both offenses are third-degree felonies punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The case is pending prosecution in Travis County.

July 8

Dariel Martinez-Hernandez, 32, of Katy was arrested for allegedly using re-encoded charge cards to unlawfully obtain 174 gallons of diesel fuel from a pumping station at a Katy supermarket in June.

The suspect reportedly was observed using one of 14 “cloned” credit cards to activate a pump to put diesel fuel into his pickup truck. Upon arresting him at the scene, Katy police discovered an auxiliary fuel tank concealed in the truck bed and linked to the primary tank.

A subsequent inspection by CID revealed that the metal canister contained 261 gallons of diesel. The truck also had been modified with hoses and nozzles to receive, transport and dispense large quantities of fuel, according to reports.

For failing to pay the required backup tax, Martinez-Hernandez was indicted in June for motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Local authorities also are charging him with felony credit card abuse.

CID assisted the Katy Police Department in the investigation of the case, which is pending prosecution in Fort Bend County.

July 1

Jor-el Robert Blackmon, 40, of Fort Worth was indicted for allegedly using red dyed diesel fuel in two pickup trucks and storing it in containers and an auxiliary tank at his residence in late November.

Blackmon is charged with motor fuel tax evasion, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, and with delivering dyed diesel fuel into a motor vehicle for use on a public roadway, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The defendant is believed to have taken the fuel from a South Texas well drilling site operated by his employer. In Texas, to distinguish it from taxed diesel, non-taxable diesel is dyed red. It is authorized almost exclusively for off-road, agricultural use by permit-holders only.

The case is pending prosecution in Tarrant County.

Fredricke Deon Espy Jr., 27, of Amarillo pleaded guilty in a Potter County court at law to three tobacco permit violations and was sentenced to 18 days in jail and fines totaling $1,500. He was credited with two days’ time served and also ordered to pay court costs.

Espy admitted to selling cigarettes and receiving and possessing 48 cigarette products as a retailer, all without a valid state permit. Each offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.

CID investigators seized the unlawful merchandise at Sir’s Smoke Shop in Amarillo, which Espy operates, during a compliance inspection last December.

Case News Archive »

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