U.S. Marshals took Hamlet Ayvazyan into custody May 21 on an arrest warrant stemming from the scheme, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. He was later released from custody after posting $200,000 bail.
Ayvazyan faces five felony counts of identity theft and is expected to appear July 5 in a Los Angeles County Superior courtroom, according to Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for county district attorney’s office.
Investigators from the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, which is made up of local and federal law enforcement officials, began monitoring Ayvazyan in July 2012 after they saw him use stolen debit card numbers to purchase gas at a Valley gas station, where they also suspected he maintained a credit skimming device, Lorenz said.
Ayvazyan reportedly pumped the fuel into a gasoline tank disguised to look like tool boxes in the bed of his truck.
Officers followed Ayvazyan to North Hollywood, where they say he met with a tanker driver. Ayvazyan then allegedly used a hose to transfer the fuel to the tanker.
Investigators allege Ayvazyan continued to use stolen credit and debit card numbers to purchase and pump diesel fuel from numerous stations throughout Burbank and Sun Valley, Lorenz said.
Investigators later identified four victims who told police they didn’t even know their credit and debit card information had been stolen since they still had their cards.
Ayvazyan appeared to be working alone, but it’s not uncommon for an organization to be behind such schemes, Lorenz said.