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2 arrested in connection with Madison gas pump skimmer investigations

MADISON, Wis. - Two people were arrested Friday morning in connection with gas pump skimmer fraud investigations.

Madison police Chief Mike Koval held a news conference in downtown Madison to announce that Madison detectives arrested two California men at an area hotel in connection with multiple illegal devices found on gas station pumps.

Koval said the skimming crimes, in which devices are surreptitiously installed inside gas station pumps to collect credit or debit card information from customers, affect everyone.

"This is the sort of property crime that cuts across each and every demographic," Koval said. "This is the kind of crime that 'Jill and Joe Lunchbucket' can all relate to because we all have identities we have to preserve and protect."

Arsen Piloyan, 46, of Van Nuys, and Wafig M. Jebarah, 49, of Los Angeles, were arrested on suspicion of identity theft.

Koval said officers searched their hotel room and rental van the suspects were driving and found evidence including soldering equipment, pump keys and dozens of prepaid cards. Surveillance video helped identify one of the suspects, police said.

Police Det. Pat Green displayed a swiping device seized from the suspects that allows skimmers to make illegal duplicates of victims' cards. Green said people stealing the card identity use a computer and the swiping device to put card information stolen through the skimmers onto prepaid credit cards.

"It can even be a room key. If it has at least two magnetic tracks on the back of it, (like) a hotel room key, the information will then be placed onto the back of that card to be able to be used in ATMs," Green said.

Detectives believe that Piloyan and Jebarah might have installed skimmers that haven't yet been discovered, and police urged business owners to inspect their pumps.

City weights and measures supervisor Kyle Bunnow said the division has secured about 70 percent of gas stations in Madison.

Eleven skimmers have been found in Madison. Most recently, a device was discovered at the BP station at 4102 Commercial Ave.

Police said the skimmers were turned over to the FBI for further investigation.

A new ordinance will go into effect in Madison on Jan. 1 that will require gas pump owners to install new locks on pumps to make accessing the machines' innards more difficult and help thwart future fraud attempts. Police said many businesses already have installed the locking mechanisms.

Investigators believe that Piloyan and Jebarah might have committed skimming-related crimes outside Wisconsin.

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