Two California men arrested last week, suspected of placing credit card skimmers on gas pumps in Madison, were each charged Wednesday with 11 counts of identity theft for allegedly using credit card information gleaned from two skimming victims to steal money.
Wafig M. Jebarah, 49, of Los Angeles, and Arsen Piloyan, 46, of Van Nuys, California, were not charged specifically with placing a skimmer on a gas pump at Capitol Petro Mart, 699 S. Whitney Way. But a criminal complaint states that two women whose credit card numbers were used fraudulently had bought gas at the station, where a skimmer was found by an inspector from the city Weights and Measures division on Oct. 25.
Dane County Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey said he expects to file more charges against the two men, who were ordered jailed on $10,000 bail after appearing in court on Wednesday. He said that police know of seven other victims whose credit card data was stolen and used by Piloyan and Jebarah, and that there may be more victims beyond that.
Humphrey said Piloyan and Jebarah had made several trips recently between California and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, and that evidence suggests they have used counterfeit credit cards, created with skimmer victims’ data, to get cash in Janesville, Illinois and Ohio.
According to the complaint, after his arrest on Friday, Jebarah first told Madison police Detective Nick Ryan that he didn’t know why police wanted to talk to him.
He said that he and Piloyan had come to Chicago from California, rented a car and were planning to go to Wisconsin Dells for a family gathering that was canceled.
Humphrey said police found no evidence that the men were headed to the Dells.
Shown surveillance stills of himself and Piloyan using credit cards at various ATMs, Jebarah admitted using the cards, which contained fraudulently obtained information, the complaint states.
He claimed that Piloyan gave him the cards to draw cash from ATMs, but he had no idea where Piloyan got the credit card data, and didn’t know anything about Piloyan using a device to put stolen credit card numbers onto the cards he was using, according to the complaint.
Jebarah said he knew that using the cards was wrong and that he was embarrassed and ashamed for using them, the complaint states.
But told by Ryan that a credit card reader was found in a rental vehicle that Jebarah had driven to Madison, Jebarah said he had no idea that the device was in the vehicle and that he had never seen it before, the complaint states.
In the hotel room where Jebarah and Piloyan were staying, police found other items possibly used to install the skimmer found at the Capitol Petro, along with two computers, the complaint states.
Humphrey said the computers are being examined for evidence.
Police said on Friday that 11 skimmers had been found on pumps in the Madison area in recent weeks, and a 12th was found on Tuesday at a BP station at 735 E. Washington Ave. during a routine check by a city inspector.