LOS ANGELES– A Studio City man was sentenced today to 65 months in federal prison for possessing more than 1,400 credit card profiles that had been stolen from consumers who used gas pumps equipped with illegal “skimmers.”
Koren Robert Kechedzian, 25, was further ordered by United States District Judge Philip S. Guttierez to pay restitution of $114,135 to victim financial institutions that suffered losses when the stolen credit card numbers were used for fraudulent purchases.
At the conclusion of a one-week trial in March, Kechedzian was convicted of two counts of credit card fraud (specifically, two counts of possession of 15 or more counterfeit access devices) and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
The federal jury found that Kechedzian possessed two USB flash drives – which are commonly called “thumb drives” – that contained stolen credit card information. The portable drives were found at Kechedzian's residence when federal authorities executed a search warrant in June 2013. At that time, investigators also recovered an illegal skimming device designed to be installed in gas station pumps to steal credit card data.
Bank records examined by investigators established that the stolen credit cards numbers on the USB flash drives came from Chevron gas stations in Palmdale and Moorpark, and testimony at trial showed that the data on portable drives was consistent with the output from a credit card skimming device.
“Stolen credit card information found in this defendant's residence was used to obtain products at gas stations and other retail outlets,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The investigation also linked the defendant to senior members of Armenian Power, a gang that has been involved in credit card schemes. This type of fraud harms millions of Americans and can be used to fund other illegal activity, which is why law enforcement is committed to uncovering these schemes and prosecuting the perpetrators.”
The investigation in this case was conducted by special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the United States Secret Service. The investigation into Kechedzian stemmed from the discovery in 2013 of two counterfeit credit cards that were embossed with Kechedzian's name.
“Today's sentencing sends a clear message to the defendant and others thinking about taking such action that credit card fraud will be taken seriously and the punishment will involve a long prison sentence,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation's Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando. “As credit card fraud becomes more prevalent, IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to use our forensic skills to protect consumers from fraud artists committed to taking the identities of innocent victims.”
Special agents testifying at trial said that credit card fraud rings install skimming devices in gas station pumps and obtain credit card numbers from the devices and transmit the stolen data with Bluetooth technology. Customers who use these compromised gas pumps are the unwitting victims of the credit card fraud.
“As this case demonstrates, those who steal the personal information of unsuspecting citizens to feed their own greed will get the justice they deserve,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its federal and local law enforcement partners to target these schemes that not only harm merchants and financial institutions, but cause considerable pain and ongoing headaches for the innocent consumers whose information has been stolen.”
The case against Kechedzian was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section and Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the General Crimes Section.
USAO – California, Central Updated August 22, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-195 / August 22, 2016