MARTINEZ (BCN) — Two Los Angeles area men who stole more than $90,000 from nearly 200 people using skimming devices planted inside gas pumps to collect credit and debit card information were sentenced Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez, the state attorney general’s office announced.

The first defendant, David Karapetyan, 32, pleaded guilty to 37 felonies, including conspiracy and identity theft, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The second defendant, Zhirayr Zamanyan, 31, pleaded guilty to five felonies, also conspiracy and identity theft, and was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the attorney general’s office.

Two other defendants in the case, Edwin Hamazaspyan, 31, and Naum Mints, 21, are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 15.

The investigation began last February when police in Solano and Contra Costa counties began noting an increase in identity theft, and an employee at a 7-Eleven store on Morello Avenue in Martinez found a skimming device inside a gas pump.

Martinez police removed the device and replaced it with a mock device. They ran 24-hour surveillance on the pump until the thieves returned to retrieve it.

Officers arrested Karapetyan and Zamanyan when they arrived at the pump to collect the device.

Investigators from the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, a partnership of 17 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, worked on the case with help from the U.S. Secret Service, the Martinez Police Department, and the Glendale Police Department.

During the investigation, officers learned that the group had acquired keys to unlock various types of gas pumps and traveled to gas stations across the Bay Area in a rented Cadillac Escalade planting skimming devices inside pumps, according to the attorney general’s office.

Once attached to the computer systems inside the pumps, the devices, which looked like a two-inch circuit board encased in electrical tape, recorded ATM and credit card information, including PIN numbers, with no visible signs of tampering on the outside of the pumps, according to the attorney general’s office.

Investigators found seven devices inside gas pumps in Martinez, Benicia, Livermore, Hayward, Oakland, San Mateo and Sacramento. The defendants ran their scam from November 2009 until they were arrested, and they stole more than $90,000 from 196 people, according to the attorney general’s office.

Banks have since reimbursed the victims.

In March, the state attorney general’s office took over prosecution of the case because the crimes were committed in so many jurisdictions.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)


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