News and Press Releases

“Smoker’s Choice” Owner Skimmed Credit and Debit Cards of more than 300 Victims

January 16, 2009

HRANT “MIKE” ASLANYAN, 38, of Redmond, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison, five years of supervised release and over $214,000 in restitution for Bank Fraud. ASLANYAN, the owner of a small tobacco and convenience store, pleaded guilty on June 13, 2008, admitting that he skimmed the debit and credit card numbers of more than 300 of his store customers. Those stolen numbers were used to steal money or incur credit from seventeen different banks. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “This type of crime victimizes totally innocent people who are just going about their daily business.” Judge Martinez ordered ASLANYAN taken into custody immediately to begin serving his sentence.

In late 2004 though early 2006, law enforcement investigated a rash of reports of compromised credit and debit cards. Dozens of people had their credit and debit cards used, without their permission, to withdraw money in the Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California areas. Some seventeen financial institutions were hit for about $300,000. Some 300 accounts were accessed. The place where each of the victims had used their credit or debit card, was “Smoker’s Choice” a small tobacco and convenience store in Redmond. Thirty-five of the victims specifically identified ASLANYAN as the person who had run their credit or debit card. The skimmer that records credit or debit card information was never recovered. ASLANYAN has refused to assist law enforcement by identifying his co-conspirators who used the information to incur credit charges or raid victim bank accounts.

In asking for 33 months of imprisonment, Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi argued that the victims go beyond the banks that lost money, to the people whose accounts were violated. “It is difficult to overstate the feeling of victimization felt by individuals who find their identity and account information stolen, merely because they chose to entrust Defendant with their debit or credit card when buying cigarettes or other items... Identity theft and related fraud crimes have been an epidemic in this judicial district... this particular crime impacted hundreds of individuals,” Mr. Lombardi wrote in his sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, the Redmond Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department, and the Duvall Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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