California men charged with eleven felonies over gas station ski - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

California men charged with eleven felonies over gas station skimming

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Two California men Friday were charged with eleven identify theft felony crimes, involving bilking local credit union customers of hundreds, and possibly thousands of dollars.

Dane County Commissioner Brian Ausmus set bail for both 46 year old Arsen Piloyan of Van Nuys and 49 year old Wafig Jebarah of Los Angeles at $10,000, and required them to surrender their Armenian passports.

A criminal complaint states the men used a skimming device placed in a gas pump at the Mobil station at 699 South Whitney Way to obtain the personal data of two UW Credit Union accounts, with surveillance cameras capturing them visiting ATMs in Madison at times when credit union records show hundreds of dollars were taken out of the accounts.

"We can isolate seven victims just from the UW Credit Union information that we got,"  Assistant Dane County District Attorney Paul Humphrey says.  "We haven't even looked at the...skimmer devices in the other gas stations."

Authorities say there have been a dozen incidents of skimming at Madison area gas stations in recent months.  Court records show skimming devices were found at a Madison Best Western Hotel room used by the men, and in a rental van.  Investigators say they are still determining how many of the local incidents may be tied to the men.

Humphrey does say Piloyan and Jebarah are responsible for skimming incidents at a gas station in Janesville, three in Illinois, and one in Ohio.

The criminal complaint says representatives of the credit union noting abnormal account activity tied to gas station users helped tie the identify thefts to the men.

Court records show Jebarah says his presence in Madison was tied to a tentative, family gathering in Wisconsin Dells.  Records state he admitted only to using pre-paid Visa cards to withdraw money from ATMs, and was ashamed of it.  But authorities say the men visited the Madison area more than once recently. 

"It kind of has the flavor of some sort of criminal enterprise,"  Ausmus says.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled next month to determine if there's enough evidence for Piloyan and Jebarah to stand trial.

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