$1M skimmer fraudster jailed for gas pump thefts

A high-tech thief has been jailed for three-and-a-half years after he admitted ripping off gas station customers with skimmer devices to the tune of $1 million. His simple yet ingenious fraud campaign lasted for three years until he was caught.

Haykaz Mansuryan, 34, of Los Angeles, entered a guilty plea at a federal court in Southern California, in which he confessed to targeting dozens of petrol pumps with skimmers — customized electronic devices that allowed him to steal credit and debit card information from customers without their knowledge.

Mansuryan and his gang would then make unauthorized cards encoded with victims’ information for their own use, stealing funds, or selling on the purloined financial data to other cybercriminals and fraudsters.

Between August 2018 and October 2021, Mansuryan installed 54 skimmers, which netted him a cool $931,213 — and a not-so-cool 41-month stint in prison after he was apprehended by authorities.

Mansuryan did not act alone, and several of his accomplices have already been sentenced and jailed for their role in the scam, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

In January, Robert Fichidzhyan received the same sentence as Mansuryan for constructing the skimmers used by the latter and his associates. In June, Margar Simonyan was sentenced to a year. Other gang members await sentencing and two suspects, Hayk Shakaryan and Vasiliy Polyak, are due to be tried on September 12th. Finally, one last suspect remains at large and is described by the DoJ as a fugitive.

Mansuryan and his fellow convicts have also been ordered to pay back all the money they stole, plus a surfeit in damages.

The case attracted quite some attention from US authorities, who fielded a wide-ranging team to go after the Mansuryan gang, including the Internal Revenue Service, San Diego police, County Sheriff’s departments, and even the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Bureau of Weights and Measures.

A spokesman for the US Secret Service praised the result as an example of cooperation overcoming technical wizardry in the fight against sophisticated but brazen financial crime.

“This case is a great reminder that even the most technical and sophisticated criminal groups can be dismantled by the collaborative efforts of law enforcement professionals,” said Special Agent Jason Reynolds. “I am truly proud of the hard work our dedicated men and women have performed on this case, which continues to show we will continuously pursue those taking advantage of unknowing victims and protect the US financial system.”

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