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Video: Sting nabs seven in Los Angeles-area card-skimming scheme

Police say suspects used devices to make fake credit cards and buy gasoline.

August 14, 2013|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com
  • Glendale Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Tom Lorenz announces the arrest of suspects in an identity theft at the Glendale Police Department, where a display of material used by identity thieves were shown for media on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.
Glendale Police Department Public Information Officer… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Seven people were arrested Tuesday as part of an investigation into a sophisticated identity theft ring targeting thousands of victims, whose credit card information was stolen to purchase gas, police said.

VIDEO: Glendale Police Department busts identity theft ring

The men — Edgar Alaverdyan, Karen Nazaryan, Serob Yegoyan, Edvard Martirosyan, Levon Mkrtchian and Emil Morkus — were allegedly making card-skimming devices, which were used to steal victims' account information. They were also manufacturing credit cards that were recoded with the victims' information to purchase gas, which was later resold to truckers, Glendale Police Sgt. Dan Suttles said.

"This is how they make their money," he said.

The scheme could possibly result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in loss to the victims, Suttles added.

PHOTOS: Glendale authorities bust major identity theft ring

On Tuesday, detectives searched nine locations, including homes in Glendale, the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles area, where they recovered evidence such as guns, credit cards, homemade card-skimming devices, computer equipment and two trucks used to store gas. Detectives also found $60,000 in cash.

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The card-skimming devices were placed into numerous gas pumps. Account information was then stolen from victims who swiped their credit cards to purchase gas, and it was re-encoded onto blank cards.

The men used the cards to buy gas and reportedly pumped fuel into a Ford F-350 — which was altered to hold up to 300 gallons of gasoline, police said. Next, they made trips to Los Angeles-based Quantum Trucking, which has a parking lot for truckers where they sold the fuel for half of its value, police said.

"It can be extremely dangerous," Suttles said. "It's gasoline rolling down the street. We don't know about it and it's a homemade gas tank, so you have the potential for bad things to happen."

Detectives from the Financial Crimes Unit launched the roughly seven-month-long investigation into the theft ring after officers stopped Mkrtchian and David Yezgatyan, in January for a window tint violation, according to Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz.

During the stop, police recognized Mkrtchian as someone the Orange County Sheriff's Department had requested that other law enforcement agencies be on the lookout for, he added. Police allegedly discovered a flash drive and an illegal re-encoded credit card, so they arrested the pair.

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