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Three men were sentenced in San Diego federal court this week for carrying out a $1 million nationwide fraud scheme that stole debit and credit card data from gas pumps and ATMs and then used the information to raid victims’ accounts.

The lead defendants in the case are Glendale brothers Davit Simonyan, 30, and Vahram Simonyan, 34, who were sentenced to 46 months and 33 months, respectively. They were ordered to forfeit a shared total of more than $642,000 — their illicit earnings from the conspiracy.

Their brother-in-law, Arsen Galstyan, 40, also of Glendale, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit nearly $47,800.

The scheme, which involved seven people, involved planting skimming devices on points of sale — such as gas pumps and ATMs — throughout Southern California, including San Diego County, and elsewhere, including New York, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. The devices, which mimic real credit or debit card scanners, captured the personal account information of hundreds, if not thousands, of users, according to prosecutors.

That data was then used to create fake debit and credit cards, which the conspirators used to withdraw money directly from people’s accounts or buy postal office money orders, according to the plea agreements.

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Over the life of the fraud — from 2017 to 2020 — the con artists admitted to real or attempted losses of at least $1.2 million, the plea agreements state.

“In this case, agents and investigative staff have been literally unable to quantify the number of victims because they are too numerous to count, and reconstructing an accurate number (let alone identifying them individually) would swamp the available investigative resources,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Pilchak wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

The brothers laundered much of the money through a bank account under the guise of a business, Brothers Limousine Service. Davit Simonyan attributes his motivation for the crime to drug abuse, and Vahram to a psychological condition and mounting concern over poorly performing businesses, including the limousine service, according to their defense lawyers.

Davit also admitted to staging a car accident — involving the cars of Galstyan and another co-defendant — to commit insurance fraud. One of the damaged vehicles was repaired at a shop owned by another co-conspirator, who was not indicted, who then kicked back thousands of dollars to the brothers.

The brothers have tried their hand at fraud before. In 2010, they were arrested on allegations of scratching off and stealing lottery tickets from the gas station where Vahram Simonyan worked, according to a sentencing memorandum. And in 2016, Davit pleaded guilty in state court to identity theft in a similar credit card skimming case out of Escondido.

Three other co-defendants have already been sentenced to prison in the case, and the final sentencing is set for May. All seven are expected to join in paying $116,000 in restitution to banks that reimbursed victims of the fraud.

Anyone who believes that they may be a victim of this scheme can visit justice.gov/largecases for more information.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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