"Touch" DNA tags suspected thief

Posted at 11:09 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 23:27:32-04

Law enforcement agencies always seem to find the skimming devices left behind, but not always the person who put the illegal credit card readers there. Thanks to advances in DNA forensics, one card reader led investigators to a suspected criminal.

Pinellas County is one of the only law enforcement jurisdictions in the state that sends DNA samples to the lab for testing that are for non-violent crimes.

In January, the Largo Police Department sent a credit card skimmer to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Forensic lab. Months later, they got a name and face to go with the skimming device.

Rafael De Los Rios was arrested and charged with use of a scanning device to defraud. De Los Rios served time in prison for similar crimes in 2007, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. So, when the “touch” DNA was sent in for analysis it hit De Los Rios who was already in the system.

“The DNA process is exactly the same whether it's a skin cell from a touch sample or blood or saliva sample it is the same exact process,” Janel Berries the Assistant Lab Director at Pinellas County Forensic Labs said.  “It is a powerful tool.  Some people leave a lot, some people will leave a little.”

According to the arrest affidavit, De Los Rios, installed the skimming device at the 7-Eleven at 11775 131 Street N. in Largo. The device was found by a technician for Guardian Fuel Technologies. The report states the “unauthorized skimming equipment was placed and partially removed an an unknown time between Nov. 6 2015 and Jan. 7 2016.”

Customers ABC Action News spoke to said they always try and pay for cash.

“I've been burned a couple times with it, I basically if I am using my credit card I make sure it's on a legitimate situation,” Christine Stammel said.  “That's pretty scary.  It has been there for 3 months and no one here noticed it.”