At this morning’s Business Watch meeting hosted by the Sierra Madre Police Department, Lt. Len Hundshamer provided an update regarding the EVG identity theft case that has now affected nearly 500 Sierra Madreans.
According to Hundshamer, the case now has a total of 606 victims reported, with 80% of the victims Sierra Madre residents. While most of the cases involved charges under $200, which Hundshamer identified as a common threshold for alerts to card holders, the largest reported loss was approximately $3,800. The total loss is now estimated at $170,000.
Lt. Hundshamer stated that the investigation has revealed that the operation began as far back as May or June, when the suspects were apparently testing how they were going to “pull it off”. He stated that as victims cards were scanned for payment, the information on the magnetic stripe was downloaded to a database for future use. There was an increase in the frequency of incidents in November and December, with a major increase at the end of December. He said that there have been reports that gas prices were lowered to lure in customers, and cash customers were turned away.
The station was closed as of Dec. 28th, and the first reports of fraudulent charges were made on the 29th. According to Hundshamer, money that was charged and placed into the EVG accounts was then wired to accounts all over the country, making it harder to track. He also stated that account information was sold to others, who then used that information to make purchases. The Walmart in Glendora reported seven consecutive hits using the same account info. According to Hundshamer, and Detective Joe Allard of Pasadena Police Dept. who made a presentation on identity theft at the same meeting, it is common for the perpetrators to create magnetic stripes with information that differs from the name on a debit/credit card, so while it appears that the amount of the sale is being charged to an acount bearing the name of the purchaser, in fact the charges go to a different account. Detective Allard recommended that business owners compare the last four digits on the printed receipt against the last four digits on the card to reduce the possibility of fraud.
Lt. Hundshamer also noted that there has been some movement in the EVG case. Glendale Police received a report of suspicious activity in a vehicle, and while inspecting the vehicle they noticed stacks of blank credit cards. Using this information, they got a warrant to search an apartment which ultimately turned out to be a shop for re-striping credit cards. Police and Secret Service agents working the case now believe that the case involves a cartel of as many as ninety people. Speaking with Lt. Hundshamer after the meeting, I inquired as to whether or not there was any word on the whereabouts of Evgeney Yakamenko, the former owner of the gas station. Lt. Hundshamer indicated that there are some leads, but he declined to go into detail.