An Armenian national and resident of Glendale, California, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with his involvement in obtaining and using thousands of stolen credit and debit card numbers.

According to court documents, Armen Saplekchian, 37, conspired with at least six other individuals to steal at least 18,000 credit and debit cards numbers, as well as the personal identification numbers associated with many of the stolen card numbers, through the use of electronic devices known as “skimmers.” Specifically, conspirators attached skimmers to gas pump payment systems, collected the information captured when payment cards were swiped at the compromised gas pumps by unwitting customers, and encoded the stolen card numbers onto physical payment cards. Thereafter, conspirators used the physical cards encoded with stolen card information throughout northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, making thousands of dollars’ worth of fraudulent ATM withdrawals and U.S. Postal Service money order purchases.

On April 4, a federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging Saplekchian, Timburek Khasanov, 37, and Mushegh Melkonyan, 28, with bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, as well as Anatoly Zinchenko, 47, with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.  In addition to Saplekchian, whose sentencing is scheduled for August 31, the following four individuals have pleaded guilty to offenses arising from their unlawful participation in the gas pump skimming scheme described above:

Name, Age

City, State

Convictions

Sentencing Date

Rudolf Mekhakian (aka Rudolph Mekhakain), 31

Santa Monica, CA

Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud; Aggravated Identity Theft

August 10

Radik Karapetyan, 25

North Hollywood, CA

Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud; Aggravated Identity Theft

July 20

Siranush Yengibaryan, 23

Van Nuys, CA

Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud; Aggravated Identity Theft

July 27

Anatoly Zinchenko, 47

Philadelphia, PA

Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud

August 3

Tracy Doherty-McCormick, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Patrick J. Lechleitner, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C., Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Joseph W. Cronin, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Col. Edwin Roessler, Jr. Chief of Fairfax County Police Department made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander P. Berrang, Kellen S. Dwyer, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy A. Edwards are prosecuting the case.