Hard Time for Airport Fuel Scammer

Gas thief gets 15 years in slammer for MIA scheme

A gas-grabbing thief who stole over $5 million in a fuel fleecing scheme at Miami International Airport is finally going to be doing some hard time.

After nearly a lifetime of getting away with rip-offs and swindles, Ramon Puentes Jr., the brother-in-law of actor Andy Garcia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in wide-ranging gas theft.

Puentes, a career criminal who had been sentenced to just 18 months in the infamous 2004 MIA fuel con, was seemingly above the law for nearly two decades. In 1992, he beat charges when his father was nabbed in an international drug and money-laundering case. He only got probation 12 years later when he was busted in a credit-gas theft scam in Lee County.

And when it came time to do time for the MIA fuel scheme, Puentes cut a deal that gave him just 18 months in jail.

But yesterday Puentes, 46, was finally brought down in a Miami courtroom, hit with 15 years for violating the terms of his sweet fuel racket deal by fraudulently obtaining home equity lines of credit worth $1 million.

"Mr. Puentes is a career criminal and con man who has consistently exhibited a total disregard for the law," prosecutor Christine Zahralban said after the sentencing, according to the Miami Herald. "His unmitigated arrogance is further evidenced by his recent commission of federal mortgage fraud."

The MIA fuel fix, which began in the 1990s, involved the siphoning of jet fuel from the airport's fuel farm, which was then sold to trucking companies and owners of private jets and luxury yachts. Over 2  million gallons of fuel was stolen in the scam.

Puentes received a lot of help along the way while trying to beat a long stretch in the slammer, including a letter to the judge from his famous brother-in-law.
"Perhaps some of the pressures one faces as a parent in life to provide for them might cause you to do something out of character," Andy Garcia and his wife, Marivi wrote, arguing that a long sentence would hurt Puentes' five children.

But Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola was unwavered by the plea from the Hollywood star, saying Puentes brought "shame to a really nice family."

"I saw a lot of nice letters," Scola said. "The only seemingly good thing I could find is that he has a family who loves him. Even Al Capone had that."

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