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Three sentenced for roles in nationwide card-skimming scheme

A gas pump at a Shell gas station in San Diego, Calif. March 8, 2022.
KPBS Staff
A gas pump at a Shell gas station in San Diego, Calif. March 8, 2022.

Three men who pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in a years-long card skimming scheme that took financial information from people using ATMs and gas pumps in San Diego and elsewhere were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms.

Prosecutors say the defendants used skimming devices to take card users' information, then used the stolen info to make unauthorized credit and debit cards.

The defendants then used the fake cards to buy postal money orders and make withdrawals from victims' accounts, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which said the scheme victimized people and their accounts in New York, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and at more than a dozen post offices in Southern California, including the San Diego area.


The prosecution's sentencing papers allege the scheme took more than $1 million from "hundreds" of victims.

On Wednesday, brothers Davit and Vahram Simonyan were sentenced along with Arsen Galstyan for their roles in the scheme. Prosecutors say Galstyan used fake debit and credit cards, while the Simonyan brothers took part in laundering the stolen funds.

Prosecutors say the brothers admitted to obtaining more than $642,000 in stolen money from 2017 to 2020, during which they structured their bank withdrawals in order to avoid drawing attention to their transactions. During the course of one month, the siblings withdrew $91,500 in cash from a single bank account, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Davit Simonyan also admitted in his plea agreement to staging a car accident in order to get a fraudulent insurance payout, in which he used cars insured by two of his co-defendants to orchestrate the fake crash.

At Wednesday's sentencing hearing, Davit Simonyan received a 46-month term, while his brother received 33 months. Galstyan was sentenced to 18 months.


Four others have also pleaded guilty in the case, with three of the defendants already sentenced to prison terms.

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