Man who allegedly placed credit card reader indicted

Police say he stole information from nearly 100 Idahoans last year.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 22, 2014 

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    Were you or your company the victim of a credit card skimming operation at a Caldwell gas station in December 2012 and January 2013? If so, reporter John Sowell would like to talk to you. Call him at 377-6423 or email him at jsowell@idahostatesman.com.

Vachik Babayan is accused of placing the skimmer over a gas pump at a station in Caldwell.

Federal authorities say he installed the electronic device on Dec. 23, 2012, and returned to retrieve it on Jan. 8, 2013.

The gas station was not identified in the indictment. Spokesmen for both the Caldwell Police Department and the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office said they have no record of a credit card skimming incident from that time period and don’t have a listing for Babayan in their files.

Babayan was indicted Dec. 10 of last year by a federal grand jury in Boise. He is charged with two counts of access device fraud and six counts of aggravated identity theft.

He had been scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning before Magistrate Ronald Bush in federal court in Boise. However, Babayan’s new lawyer, Jilbert Tahmazian, was not available for that hearing, and it was rescheduled Tuesday for March 4.

If convicted, Babayan faces up to 25 years on both of the access device fraud counts and a mandatory minimum of two years each on the identity theft charges. Each of the identity theft sentences would be served consecutive to the other sentences.

It appears that Babayan works as a truck driver and has been in Idaho before, according to Idaho court records. He was cited in 2009 and 2010 for port of entry violations in Bannock and Ada counties.

Babayan is also accused of being part of a group that stole credit card account information last year in Glendale, Calif., using skimmers and making counterfeit credit cards. The cards were used to purchase large amounts of gasoline.

The group used pickups with modified gas tanks that could hold up to 300 gallons of gas. They were taken to a trucking company in Los Angeles, where they sold the fuel for half its value, the Glendale News-Press reported in August.

Nine people, including Babayan, were arrested by police from Glendale, north of Los Angeles.

The suspects were charged with identity theft, possession of access card information and conspiracy, the News-Press reported.

The case against Babayan there is pending, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

He has been out on bond in that case and has not been taken into custody in Idaho.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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