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Saturday, June 22, 2024

MPD arrests two in relation to credit card skimmer incidents

Madison Police Department officers arrested Arsen Piloyan, 46, of Van Nuys, Calif., and Wafig M. Jebarah, 49, of Los Angeles, in relation to a series of credit card skimmers that have recently been found on Madison-area gas pumps.

The two suspects were arrested Friday on charges of identity theft in a local hotel, according to an MPD incident report.

While searching the men’s room and rented van, MPD officers found soldering equipment, wires and other tools consistent with what criminals would need to place skimmers on pumps, a key ring with keys consistent with those used to open gas pumps, numerous prepaid Visa cards that detectives believe may have been loaded with money stolen from victims' accounts and receipts from hotels in other jurisdictions.

“During a recent investigation the MPD was able to tentatively identify one suspect through numerous surveillance images recorded at local businesses where fraudulent cards were used late last month,” MPD Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain wrote in the report. “This morning the MPD received information that the suspect was back in Madison. He was arrested with a previously unidentified suspect.”

MPD detectives also said they believe Piloyan and Jebarah may have put more scanners on other gas pumps that have not yet been discovered. MPD is urging local businesses to check their gas pumps in response.

As of Friday, 11 skimmers had been found in the Madison area, with the most recent being found Thursday at a BP on Commercial Avenue. MPD has turned over all the skimmers to the FBI for further investigation, according to the report. One skimmer was found at a gas station just off campus on University Avenue.

The discovery of so many skimmers prompted the Madison Common Council to pass a new ordinance requiring gas station to install locks on their pumps. That ordinance, which was passed in early November, will go into effect Jan. 1. According to DeSpain, many local gas stations have already installed the locking mechanisms.

“It is not known to what extent the arrested suspects are connected to local cases and it is quite probable others are involved in skimmer fraud,” DeSpain wrote. “The MPD urges citizens to continue to be vigilant.”

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