California Man Faces New Charges in Credit Card-Skimming Scheme
Police say Sarkis Mkhsyan installed credit card-skimming devices at a Plymouth gas station early in the summer and acquired names and credit-card information of more than 100 victims.
A California man arrested in Plymouth over the summer and charged with a masterminding a sophisticated identity theft scheme in the Twin Cities is facing three more charges in connection with the scheme.
Sarkis Mkhsyan, 29, is now charged with one additional count of identity theft, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine, and two more counts of unlawful use of a scanning device, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. All the charges are felonies.
Mkhsyan and his wife, Gohar Yesayan, 28, both of Van Nuys, Calif., were arrested in Plymouth in July and charged with one count of identity theft, one count of unlawful possession of a re-encoder and six counts of unlawful possession of a scanning device.
Plymouth police arrested the couple July 6 for speeding on Highway 169. Mkhsyan, who was driving a car with Florida license plates that had been rented in Denver, offered a California ID but no driver’s license; police initially suspected that they were smuggling drugs, and called for a K-9 unit.
A subsequent search of the rental car turned up a list of 100 Twin Cities gas stations, along with a computer file on how to repair a gasoline pump, a magnetic card reader, a number of new credit cards in both Mkhsyan’s and Yesayan’s names, numerous blank credit cards, a cordless drill and a computer.
When police visited one of the gas stations on the list, a Shell station in New Hope, they found that credit card-skimming devices had been installed on six of the eight gas pumps, allowing Mkhsyan and Yesayan to acquire credit-card information from anyone who paid for gasoline at the pump, according to court documents.
Earlier, the owner of Herb’s Shell Service Center in Plymouth contacted police and reported that credit-card skimmers had been installed on two gas pumps at the station. Officers took swabs from the skimmers on the two pumps to test for DNA and try to determine who had installed the skimmers.
After Mkhsyan’s arrest, police took a DNA sample from him and sent it to the Hennepin County crime laboratory.
The crime lab subsequently determined that the DNA taken from the gas pumps in Plymouth matched Mkhsyan’s DNA profile.
Officers obtained a search warrant in September to conduct a forensic review of the credit-card skimmers taken from the Plymouth gas station. That analysis showed that more than 100 names and credit-card information had been acquired by the skimmers; 13 of those victims told police that they wanted to pursue criminal charges of identity theft against Mkhsyan.
Mkhsyan was arrested in May in Glendale, Calif., and charged with identity theft. Police found about 40 handwritten Social Security numbers and electronic storage devices containing more Social Security numbers and fraudulent credit cards in different names in his possession in that case, according to the complaint.
Mkhsyan remains in the Hennepin County Jail on a $1 million bond. An omnibus hearing in his case is scheduled Nov. 1 in Hennepin County District Court.