Theft Ring Steals Millions via Gas Station Skimming Operation
NEW YORK -- Thirteen defendants were indicted this week for stealing consumers' banking information using skimming devices at gas stations throughout the southern United States. They are also charged with using that information to steal and launder $2.1 million using ATMs and banks in New York City.
The 426-count indictment charges four lead defendants -- Garegin Spartalyan, 40; Aram Martirosian, 34; Hayk Dzhandzhapanyan, 40; and Davit Kudugulyan, 42 -- with money laundering in the second degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree, grand larceny in the second and third degree, criminal possession of a forgery device, and criminal possession of forged instruments in the second degree.
The additional defendants -- Azat Aramyan, 25; Norayr Aramyan, 25; Argine Ananyan, 34; Rosa Unusyan, 24; Sona Minasyan, 51; Armen Abroyan, 36; Hasmik Miribian, 64; Artur Pogosyan, 31; and Rose Vardui Pndlyan, 47 -- are each charged with two counts of either money laundering in the second degree or money laundering in the third degree.
"By using skimming devices planted inside gas station pumps, these defendants are accused of fueling the fastest-growing crime in the country," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. "Cybercriminals and identity thieves are not limited to any geographic region, working throughout the world behind computers. In this case, the defendants are charged with stealing personal identifying information from victims in southern states, used forged bank cards on the East Coast, and withdrew stolen proceeds on the West Coast. My office's Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau also operates across borders, and will continue to track and prosecute identity thieves here in Manhattan and around the world."
The lead defendants used credit card-skimming devices to copy credit and ATM numbers, plus PINs, used at Raceway and Racetrac gas stations throughout Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, according to documents filed in court. The internally installed skimming devices were undetectable to victims who paid at the pump, and were Bluetooth enabled, allowing the stolen personal identifying information to be obtained without physically removing the devices.
These defendants then allegedly encoded the stolen information onto forged cards and used them to withdraw cash at Manhattan ATMs from approximately March 26, 2012, to March 28, 2013. That stolen money was allegedly deposited into New York bank accounts that the defendants had established. The other defendants reportedly withdrew the money promptly at banks in California and Nevada.
The defendants' transactions were all under $10,000, allegedly structured in a way to avoid legally imposed cash transaction reporting requirements and to disguise the "nature, ownership and control" of their criminal proceeds, according to the district attorney.
The indictment fully supersedes a previously filed indictment against the defendants, following an investigation that began after they were arrested and charged in New York State Supreme Court on March 21, 2013.
Assistant District Attorney Daniel Brody is handling the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia O'Connor, deputy chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Brenda Fischer, chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau.