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Friday, June 15, 2012

Kamala Harris Busts "Skimmer Operation" That Stole From Hundreds of Chase Bank Customers

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 4:42 PM

click to enlarge Now we have to spend our money to keep these people in jail
  • Now we have to spend our money to keep these people in jail
Attorney General Kamala Harris used her newly created eCrime Unit to break up two high-tech bank scam operations that ripped off hundreds of Chase customers over the last three years.

In both "skimmer operations," the defendants, organized as "crews," replaced the card readers at Chase Bank ATM vestibules with ones that let them read customers' card information. Additionally, both crews installed micro cameras to capture the card holders' PIN entry. They used this information to create bogus ATM cards, which they used to withdraw cash.

"Technology benefits consumers, but also opens them up to risks that law enforcement must respond to," Harris said in a statement. "ATM skimming cases like these are fast-growing, can lead to identity theft and significant financial losses."

That investigation led to today's sentencing of 35-year-old Gnel Snapyan, who will spend one year behind bars. His partner-in-crime, Gervork Aroutiounyan, 48, was sentenced in March to three years and eight months in state prison. The men were also ordered to pay restitution to Chase Bank.

In a separate yet very similar scam, Santiago Alcantar, 37, Genea Antoine, 39, and Anthony Garcia, 30, plead guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft, computer access fraud, identity theft, second degree burglary, and forgery of access cards.

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

In September 2011, the Attorney General's Office charged Snapyan and Aroutiounyan with 28 counts of felony fraud. On March 1, they both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft, computer access fraud, identity theft, second-degree burglary, and forgery of access cards. Additionally, each pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree burglary.

Also between October 2010 and February 2011, Alcantar, Antoine, and Garcia ran their skimmer operation, stealing some $217,000 from more than 200 victims. On July 27, Alcantar will be sentenced to four years in state prison; Antoine will receive two years in state prison; and Garcia will be behind bars for no more than four months.

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

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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