13 indicted in $2M gas station card-skimming scheme

Pump-mounted devices used Bluetooth chips that allowed the thieves to retrieve the data without having to physically connect to the devices, prosecutors allege.

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A Bluetooth-enabled card skimmer allegedly used recently at gas stations in the southern US. Manhattan District Attorney's Office

Prosecutors have charged 13 defendants with using card skimmers installed at gas stations to steal more than $2 million from customers throughout the southern US.

The ring allegedly used card readers installed inside gas pumps to record payment card data and PINs from customers. The skimmers were installed internally and used a Bluetooth chip that allowed the thieves to retrieve the data without having to physically connect to the devices, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Between March 2012 and March 2013, the defendants used the stolen information to forge payment cards to withdraw cash from at least 70 different bank accounts at ATMs in New York, Vance said. The ring then allegedly deposited the funds into bank accounts in New York for withdrawal by co-conspirators in California and Nevada, laundering about $2.1 million.

"By using skimming devices planted inside gas station pumps, these defendants are accused of fueling the fastest growing crime in the country," Vance said in a statement. "Cybercriminals and identity thieves are not limited to any geographic region, working throughout the world behind computers. In this case, the defendants are charged with stealing personal identifying information from victims in southern states, using forged bank cards on the East Coast, and withdrawing stolen proceeds on the West Coast."

Garegin Spartalyan, 40, Aram Martirosian, 34, Hayk Dzhandzhapanyan, 40, and Davit Kudugulyan, 42, were named as lead defendants in the 426-count indictment, which included charges of money laundering, possession of stolen property, and possession of a forgery device. The other nine defendants were charged with two counts each of money laundering.