FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A California man was convicted in Texas for participating in a multi-state theft ring that planted illegal devices at gas stations, enabling the group to steal 38,000 debit and credit card numbers and then siphon $100,000 from bank accounts.
Aleksandr Goukasian, 52, of Los Angeles, faces up to life in prison when he’s sentenced at a later date. He was convicted Friday of four counts of unlawful possession of an electronic intercept device and one count each of unlawful use of electronic communications, engaging in organized criminal activity and fraudulently possessing or using identifying information.
Prosecutors in Fort Worth showed evidence that Goukasian’s theft ring planted skimmers — homemade electronic devices that intercept credit card information — inside gas pumps in Mojave, Calif., Las Vegas, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston over a few months in 2010. Goukasian recoded gift cards with those numbers and used the gift cards to withdraw money at ATMs from hundreds of customers’ accounts, prosecutors said.
After Goukasian was arrested in a Fort Worth suburb, 13 skimmers with the same unique markings were discovered throughout North Texas.
His trial started June 12 but was delayed Tuesday when Goukasian did not show up for court. Officials later found him nearly unconscious in his residence, and he was hospitalized for an apparent overdose of prescription sleeping pills. The trial resumed Friday after he was released from the hospital and returned to court.
Goukasian’s attorneys, Abe Factor and Gerard Kardonsky, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Saturday.
Two other suspects in the theft ring, Arkadi Minassian and Arin Mehrabian, are awaiting trial in Houston, according to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth. At least two others remain at large.
Goukasian also was charged in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas and reached a plea bargain that has been sealed, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
According to court records, Goukasian pleaded guilty in August to one count of unauthorized use of a device to access account and credit card information. Goukasian faces up to 10 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines in that case but has not been sentenced. The federal indictment accused him of using five credit cards to obtain nearly $10,000.
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