Serial ATM-Skimmers Go to Prison

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The thieves acquired keys to unlock various kinds of gas station pumps.

    A pair of guilty pleas brought an end to a costly Bay Area crime spree Tuesday.

    Two men were sentenced to prison after admitting their role in a skimming scheme that took more than $90,000 from some 200 people in Martinez, Benicia, Livermore, Hayward, Oakland, San Mateo and Sacramento.

    Prosecutors said the duo, along with two other suspects, stole personal financial information by using a sophisticated skimming device placed inside ATM and credit card payment devices at gas station pumps.

    Police said the group would travel to gas stations in a rented Cadillac Escalade and use acquired keys to unlock pumps. Once inside, they would set up a second recording device that would monitor the PINs of ATM and credit cards used to buy gas. The victims would not have been able to know the machine had been tampered with because police said nothing was visible at the pumps.

    As soon as a victim left with their tank filled, the thieves would return and retrieve the skimmers with the information needed to get money out of their bank accounts. Police said that took less than 20 seconds.

    Cops credit a tip from a 7-Eleven employee in Martinez who reported seeing a skimming device inside a gas pump for cracking the case. Police replaced that skimmer with one of their own and set up surveillance.  They said they caught the suspects when they returned to get the stolen data.

    David Karapetyan, 32, pled guilty to 37 felonies and received a seven-year prison sentence. Zhirayr Zamanyan, 31, pled guilty to five felonies and received a five-year prison sentence.

    Two other defendants are scheduled to appear in court next month.

    In the end, the banks were the big losers in this crime spree. Prosecutors said the institutions reimbursed all of the the victims their money.