A Hennepin County jury convicted the first of two defendants accused in a major identity theft scheme that used credit card skimmers installed in Twin Cities gasoline pumps.
Gohar Yesayan, 28, of Van Nuys, Calif., was found guilty of identity theft involving eight or more victims, a felony. Investigators reported that more than 450 people had information stolen by the devices she helped install in gas pumps. She also was convicted on a single count of identity theft involving possession of a re-encoder and a single count of financial transaction fraud. She faces between 3½ to nearly five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 5.
The jury received the case about 3 p.m. Friday after a weeklong trial and returned the verdicts less than two hours later, according to the Hennepin County attorney’s office.
Yesayan and her husband, Sarkis Mkhsyan, were arrested July 6 following a traffic stop for speeding in which a police dog detected possible illegal drugs. A search of Yesayan’s purse revealed a handwritten list of nearly 100 gas stations in the Twin Cities. Also found in the rented SUV were 12 credit cards re-encoded with a stolen account number, devices for making bogus credit cards and a flash drive with hundreds of names and credit card numbers. They also found five keys for opening gas pumps.
Police went to a New Hope Shell station at 36th Avenue S. and found skimmers inside six pumps. Every time a customer inserted a credit card into the pump’s reader, the skimmer also read and recorded the information for creating the fake credit cards. Prosecutors plan to ask for at least $1,000 restitution for each of the identified victims.
Yesayan, who was free on bail, was arrested after the verdict. Her husband’s trial is scheduled for July 8.