Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen
Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen

A Studio City identity thief was sentenced Monday to more than five years behind bars for stealing credit card information at gas station pumps in Southern California by using hidden digital devices in a scheme that has reached “epidemic proportions.”

Koren Kechedzian, 24, was also ordered to pay about $114,000 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release following his 65-month federal prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Kechedzian was convicted by a Los Angeles jury in March on two counts each of credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The jury found that Kechedzian possessed two USB flash drives — commonly called “thumb drives” — that contained stolen credit card information.

The portable drives were found at Kechedzian’s home 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.

Special agents testified that credit card fraud rings install skimming devices in gas station pumps and obtain credit card numbers from the devices using Bluetooth technology.

Customers who use the compromised gas pumps are the unwitting victims of fraud.

“The incidence of skimming, both here in Los Angeles and nationwide, has reached epidemic proportions and consumers need to very vigilant about any suspicious or unauthorized activity on their accounts,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles.

“These types of crimes not only result in major losses for financial institutions and merchants, but can cause a major disruption in consumers’ personal finances,” he said.

–City News Service 

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