Two men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Tuesday for their roles in an ATM skimming spree that authorities say targeted gas station pumps throughout the United States.
David Karapetyan, 32, received a seven-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 37 felonies related to the scam, which prosecutors said netted more than $90,000 over a three-month period in Northern California alone. Zhirayr Zamanyan, 31, was sentenced to five years after he pleaded guilty to five felonies. Two other defendants, Edwin Hamazaspyan, 31, and Naum Mints, 21, are scheduled to appear in court next month.
The scheme unraveled after a 7-Eleven store employee in Martinez, California, noticed a skimming device inside a gas pump. Police replaced the device with a clone and conducted around-the-clock surveillance. Karapetyan and Zamanyan were apprehended when they visited the store to retrieve the device.
Police found evidence that included a traffic citation from Oklahoma that led them to believe the men where part of a Armenian and Russian crime group that traveled the country planting skimming devices.
The men had keys to unlock various kinds of gas station pumps. The skimming devices they planted stored payment card data used by customers. Gang members would later return to retrieve the data on the devices. In all, authorities found seven devices inside gas pumps throughout Northern California.
Suspect Mints was identified after his cell phone number was cross referenced to photos and information he posted on MySpace. The California Attorney General's press release is here. ®