Thirteen defendants were indicted on Monday by a Manhattan district attorney for their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar card skimming operation.
After installing the devices internally onto gas pumps at Raceway and Racetrac gas stations in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, the defendants were able to siphon credit and ATM card numbers, as well as PIN numbers, of individuals who paid at the pumps, according to a release by the New York County District Attorney's Office.
The planted devices were Bluetooth-enabled, which allowed the defendants to remotely steal the card data.
Between March 2012 and March 2013, the thieves allegedly used the stolen data to create forged cards which were used to launder more than $2 million from ATM and bank transactions in Manhattan. After withdrawals were made from ATMs, the cash was then deposited at various New York bank accounts, according to federal officials. The final phase included other members of the group making withdrawals from the same New York-based bank accounts in California and Nevada.
The four lead defendants – Garegin Spartalyan, 40; Aram Martirosian, 34; Hayk Dzhandzhapanyan, 40; and David Kudugulyan, 42 – have been charged with money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny, and possession of a forgery device and forged instruments, according to the release. All other defendants have been charged with money laundering.
“By using skimming devices planted inside gas station pumps, these defendants are accused of fueling the fastest growing crime in the country,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in the release. “Cyber criminals and identity thieves are not limited to any geographic region, working throughout the world behind computers.”