Southern California Skimmers caught by Santa Clara County REACT Agents
On Tuesday, June 16, Jennifer Deng, Deputy District Attorney with the High Tech Crimes Unit announced the arrest of four Southern California men who have been charged in Santa Clara County. The four men are accused of going on a criminal luxury item shopping spree using counterfeit credit cards created by “skimming” customer information from gas pumps for more than seven months in 2014 and 2015. Investigators suspect that the fraudulent transactions total more than $500,000 over the seven month span.
50-year-old Sarkis Demirchian, 44-year-old Garik Gevorgyan, and 40-year-old Misak Koshkaryan were arrested in Monterey County and brought to Santa Clara County over the past few months for arraignment.
The final suspect, 51-year-old Karen Mamidjanyan, was arrested in Glendale, Los Angeles County, and is expected to be extradited to Santa Clara County in the next two months for an arraignment after charges of stolen credit card information linked him to the thefts. Mamidjanyan had also been arrested in June of 2014 for burglary in Orange County. And in December of 2013, the day after Christmas, he was arrested by Glendale police at his Glendale home, and charged with driving on a suspended license, petty theft with a prior conviction, possession of a controlled substance, issuing bad checks, and resisting arrest.
All four suspects remain in custody. According to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Deng, the four men face numerous counts of identity theft, burglary, conspiracy and aggravated white collar crime enhancements. If convicted, they could face more than 20 years in prison.
From August of last year to February 2015, the four suspects would often go in well-dressed pairs to jewelry stores, beverage, office supply, and grocery stores from Palo Alto to Gilroy. There, they would buy items such as high-end watches, jewelry, liquor, and gift cards using victims’ credit card numbers that had been transposed onto counterfeit credit cards, either bearing their names or aliases the suspects were using.
Jennifer Deng of the DA’s office said “The victim merchants were not aware of the fraud until after the transactions, when they would get a charge back from the issuing bank of the credit card.” It is suspected that the four suspects will be linked to other possible suspects who have been working their “skimming” scheme up and down California using the stolen credit card information from local gas stations.
A look into the investigations shows that the losses may be rising into the millions, as investigators of REACT, a Bay Area high-technology crimes and identity theft task force directed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, focuses in on similar crimes.
Anyone with further information or believe they have been victimized by these individuals should contact REACT Agent Tanya Neu at (408)282-2439 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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