Kamala Harris Busts High-Tech ATM “Scammers”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris (right) has announced the outcomes of two cases investigated by her office’s eCrime Unit in which defendants “skimmed” credit card information of Chase Bank customers across the state.

Both cases involved a type of crime frequently referred to as a “skimmer operation.” In both cases, the defendants, organized as “crews,” replaced the card readers at Chase Bank ATM vestibules with ones that allowed them to retrieve customers’ card information. Additionally, both crews installed micro cameras to capture the cardholders’ PIN entry. With this information, they created bogus ATM access cards.

“Technology benefits consumers, but also opens them up to risks that law enforcement must respond to,” Harris said. “ATM skimming cases like these are fast-growing, can lead to identity theft and significant financial losses.  I applaud the state and local collaboration that shut down these two criminal schemes.”

Gnel Snapyan, 35, was sentenced today in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court to 364 days in state prison and five years probation. His co-conspirator, Gervork Aroutiounyan, 48, was sentenced in March 2012 to three years and eight months in state prison. The men were ordered to pay restitution to Chase Bank.

In a separate scam, Santiago Alcantar, 37, Genea Antoine, 39, and Anthony Garcia, 30, entered a plea of guilty in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court to one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft, computer access fraud, identity theft, second degree burglary and forgery of access cards. They were charged in March with 14 counts of felony fraud.

Between July 2010 and February 2011, Snapyan fraudulently withdrew approximately $220,000 from the bank accounts of more than 300 victims in Santa Clara, Marin, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo counties.

Between October 2010 and February 2011, Alcantar, Antoine, and Garcia ran their skimmer operation in Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The crew stole approximately $217,000 from more than 200 victims.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 27.

In both cases, Chase Bank has reimbursed customers for their losses.