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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tujunga, California Man Pleads Guilty to Credit Card Fraud for Installing Skimming Devices in Gas Pumps

BOISE – Vachik Babayan, 42, of Tujunga, California, pleaded guilty today in federal court to one count of access device fraud for possessing fifteen or more unauthorized credit card account numbers, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Sentencing is set before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Boise on April 20, 2015.

As described in the plea agreement, Vachik Babayan travelled to Idaho on two separate occasions for the purpose of installing, and aiding and abetting the installation of, credit card account number skimmers in gas station pumps, in both Caldwell, Idaho and Idaho Falls, Idaho. The skimmers were installed inside the gas pumps. They diverted the electronic communication of credit card information from the normal course of wires and circuits within the pump, and recorded the credit card information, including name and account number, for later retrieval.

On December 24, 2012, Babayan installed a credit card skimmer in a gas station in Caldwell, Idaho. Prior to its discovery by gas station employees, the skimmer collected the account information of approximately 91 account holders who swiped their cards at the targeted pump. The skimmer also captured Babayan’s own credit card information, as he used his card to test the installation. Babayan returned to the same gas station on January 8, 2013, to retrieve the skimmer and the captured account information. However, on December 28, 2012, the gas station discovered the skimmer and turned it over to the Secret Service.

On February 20, 2013, Babayan rented a U-Haul van in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Babayan used this van to block security cameras at gas stations in Idaho Falls while installing credit card skimmers in gas pumps at various Idaho Falls gas stations. On February 21, 2013, a total of seven skimmers were recovered at three gas stations in Idaho Falls. Babayan installed and aided and abetted in the installation of these skimmers. Prior to discovery, these skimmers captured names and account numbers from approximately 66 credit card transactions. One of these captures was Babayan’s account information.

Possession and attempted possession of fifteen or more counterfeit and unauthorized access devices is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to ten years, a term of supervised release of not more than three years, a maximum fine of $250,000.00, and a special assessment of $100.

"This case demonstrates how vigilant cooperation between federal and local law enforcement, and local businesses, protects Idaho consumers from credit card fraud and other violations of financial security," said Olson.

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Caldwell Police Department, the Boise Police Department, the Mountain Home Police Department, the Boise County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho Falls Police Department, and the Glendale California Police Department as part of the Los Angeles Electronic Crimes Task Force.

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Updated January 15, 2015