Skimmer scammers indicted in NYC
by Wes Mayer
The four men suspected of stealing the identities of more than 70 Coweta County residents in 2012 were charged in a 426-count indictment in New York City earlier this month, according to the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
With the help of Coweta County Sheriff’s Office investigators Sgt. Jason Fetner and Chad McDonald, the four main defendants in the case, Garegin Spartalyan, 40, Aram Martirosian, 34, Hayk Dzhandzhapanyan, 40, and Davit Kudugulyan, 42, were arrested in New York City on March 21, 2013. These four men are suspected of using high-technology skimming devices they installed inside RaceTrac and RaceWay gasoline pumps to steal credit and debit card information from hundreds of unknowing victims throughout Texas, Tennessee and Georgia — 70 of whom live in Coweta County.
On Tuesday, the indictment of these four lead defendants was publicly announced by the New York County District Attorney’s Office. All four men were indicted for 426 charges, including two counts of money laundering in the second degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the second degree, two counts of grand larceny in the second and third degree, criminal possession of a forgery device, and hundreds of counts of criminal possession of forged instruments in the second degree. The case is being prosecuted by New York County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Brody.
“It’s definitely a happy ending so far for what has been a serious headache for many people here,” Fetner said. “It’s refreshing to know that in Coweta County, there is still justice for crimes like this.”
In December, Fetner was flown to New York City to testify in front of a grand jury. The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office played a crucial role in providing evidence to the New York County District Attorney’s Office — Fetner and McDonald were able to find and seize two of the skimming devices the four main defendants used at the RaceTrac gas station on Bullsboro Drive at Amlajack Boulevard. The investigators were also able to identify the suspects and piece together how they ran their operation.
The suspects would secretly install skimming devices inside pumps at RaceTrac and RaceWay gas stations, Fetner said. These devices would copy credit and debit card information and PIN numbers, and they used Bluetooth devices to transfer the data directly to either Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan or Kudugulyan. This way, the suspects would not have to return to the pumps to retrieve the data.
Using this data, the suspects would then encode victims’ information onto forged cards. Using these cards, the suspects would withdraw cash from ATMs and banks and deposit the cash into separate personal bank accounts. This money would then be withdrawn by other parties in other states — according to Fetner, Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan each own mansions and other expensive possessions, like yachts, in California and Las Vegas.
According to the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan are suspected of stealing identities and laundering more than $2 million from ATMs and banks around Manhattan — they were also charged for laundering $10,000 from more than 70 different bank accounts of Coweta County victims.
Earlier this year, Fetner was able to communicate with Brody in New York to put together the evidence and identify the four main defendants, leading to their arrest in March. During the arrest, New York authorities were able to seize hundreds of forged financial transaction cards. These cards account for the majority of the charges against Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan — they were each charged with 400 counts of the criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, according to the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Now that they have been indicted, Fetner said, the next step is for them to either plead guilty or go to trial — he said he expects a trial due to the money they spent hiring an expensive attorney.
“I look forward for another opportunity to go to New York and testify in a trial,” Fetner said. “But I am just a representative of Sheriff [Mike] Yeager. It’s because of the sheriff we work in an environment where we can work on cases such as this.”
According to Fetner, Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan are suspected of being involved in the California area-based gang AP-13 — “AP” stands for Armenian Power, and “13” represents the letter “M” for the Mexican mafia. All four are either first or second generation Armenian immigrants, he said.
Nine others were indicted alongside Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan in New York City — Azat Aramyan, 25, Norayr Aramyan, 25, Argine Ananyan, 34, Rosa Unusyan, 24, Sona Minasyan, 51, Armen Abroyan, 36, Hasmik Miribian, 64, Artur Pogosyan, 31, and Rose Vardui Pndlyan, 47, were each charged with two counts of either money laundering in the second degree or money laundering in the third degree.
If the four men do go to trial, Fetner said, if they are found guilty, they will most likely serve time in a New York prison. When they get out, though, Fetner will have served 70 arrest warrants against Spartalyan, Martirosian, Dzhandzhapanyan and Kudugulyan each. The four will be then be extradited to Coweta County, face a trial here and serve time for their crimes against Coweta County citizens.
And that is just here — Fetner said the men will also face trials in the other states they victimized.
“We are going to guarantee it gets the attention it should,” Fetner said. “We are making sure the taxpayers’ money is going toward solving even these types of crimes.”