State prosecutors have charged six men arrested Tuesday with multiple counts of identity theft in the wake of an alleged credit-card skimming operation aimed at purchasing and reselling gasoline.
The men — Edgar Alaverdyan, of Northridge, Levon Mkrtchian, of North Hollywood and Karen Nazaryan, Serob Yegoyan, Evard Martirosyan and Emil Morkus, all of Glendale — face conspiracy, identity and access-card theft charges, according to criminal complaints filed by the state attorney general's office.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Hratch Keyo, Vachik Babayan and David Yezgatyan, who are also listed in criminal complaints.
Police seized guns, homemade card-skimming devices, credit cards, two trucks used to store and haul gas, and computer software and equipment during Tuesday's takedown. They also found $60,000 in cash.
The men allegedly made card-skimming devices that were placed inside gas pumps and used to steal account information from thousands of victims.
The men then encoded blank credit cards with the victims' bank account information and used them to buy fuel, which they pumped into the tanks mounted in the beds of pick-up trucks that had been modified to store hundreds of gallons, according to Glendale police investigators. The fuel was reportedly sold to truckers for half the price.
Investigators observed Alaverdyan pumping gas into two trucks and then arriving at a trucking lot in the Los Angeles, where he filled up other trucks, according to the criminal complaints.
Gasoline was purchased throughout the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas, according to the complaints.
The arrests came after a seven-month investigation that began when Glendale police stopped Mkrtchian and Yezgatyan in January for an alleged window tint violation.
An officer recognized Mkrtchian as a person of interest in an identity theft case being investigated by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, police said.
Police arrested the pair after they allegedly found a flash drive and a re-encoded credit card in their possession.
According to criminal complaints, the crew allegedly stored stolen account information at their home health business, P.T.A. Registry, which is in the 1600 block of Victory Boulevard in Glendale.
Prosecutors have also charged Mkrtchian, along with Morkus, with identity theft incidents in San Diego and Orange County.
All but one of the men were released from police custody this week.