Courts & Crime

Calif. gas pump 'skimming' case likely to expand

It started as a routine check on a gasoline pump.

It blossomed into the unraveling of a suspected "skimming" scam that authorities believe was bilking $20,000 a day from Northern California debit and credit card holders, including $43,000 from customers at a Rocklin AM/PM service station.

Martinez police detectives on Feb. 26 arrested two Southern California men on suspicion of installing illegal data-capturing devices inside card readers at gasoline pumps. Police have recommended that prosecutors file 32 counts of identity fraud, conspiracy and enhanced charges related to gang activity.

"We don't think it's just these two guys," said Martinez Police Cmdr. Gary Peterson.

This kind of skimming is fairly rare, say law enforcement and retail experts. But it's a highly sophisticated crime that bedevils retailers who must balance security with service to customers who have come to enjoy the ease of swiping their plastic through card readers to pay for gasoline and a growing number of services and products.

Eleven skimming devices, each loaded with information for as many as 400 to 500 accounts, were found in the car in which David Karapetyan, 31, and Zhirayr Zamanyan, 30, were stopped by detectives from the Martinez Police Department.

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