MICHIGAN CITY | Aluminum foil was used to cover a satellite dish blocking the signal used to authorize credit cards swiped at the pumps at a Michigan City-area gas station.
Blocking the signal allowed fraudulent cards to activate the pumps and fuel to be stolen.
LaPorte County Sheriff's Detective Andy Hynek said he's heard of satellite dishes being covered with foil to steal gas elsewhere but never locally.
"I don't believe we've ever had that before," Hynek said.
According to LaPorte County authorities, sheriff's deputies were called Friday to the Mobil station on U.S. 12 just east of the Michigan City boundaries.
The owner, Syed Rizzi, told police he found two sheets of foil placed over a section of a satellite dish.
That prevented the gas pumps at his station from receiving the signal used to communicate with banks and other financial institutions on whether a card should be accepted or not accepted once swiped.
Police said the result was the pumps activating and an unknown amount of fuel stolen.
Rizzi told investigators blocking the signal did activate a back-up computer at his station but the system does not find out if a card once swiped was stolen or fraudulent until after the purchase, according to investigators.
Authorities say the satellite dish was on the roof of the gas station and it was accessed by climbing onto an air conditioning unit beside the building.
According to police, the thefts occurred sometime after the building closed.
Rizzi told police he closes at 11 p.m. but allows the pumps to stay on during the night for card swiping customers needing to gas up.
If such thefts become a growing trend, Hynek said he's confident technology will be developed to somehow prevent satellite communication from being interrupted in such a manner.
"I would say the security companies are going to find a way to combat that," Hynek said.