3 plead guilty in years-long card skimming scheme at ATMs, gas pumps


A woman inserting card to ATM Machine to withdraw cash. (Adobe Stock image)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Three men pleaded guilty to federal charges Monday 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.

Prosecutors allege 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.

Six defendants have pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme, one of whom has been sentenced to a prison term. The seventh and final defendant is expected to plead guilty this week.

The three men who pleaded guilty Monday were Arsen Galstyan, 40, of Glendale, who admitted to using fake debit and credit cards, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, while two brothers, Davit Simonyan, 30, and Vahram Simonyan, 34, both of Glendale, pleaded guilty to laundering the proceeds of the fraud and other crimes.

Prosecutors say the Simonyan 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.

Anyone who believes they may be victims of the card-skimming scheme was advised to visit the Department of Justice’s large case website at justice.gov/largecases.

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