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Prosecutors charge trio in identity theft ring that netted $2 million

March 8, 2010 | 11:22 am

Prosecutors charged a trio of suspected identity thieves each with nearly two dozen criminal charges Monday for allegedly taking $2 million by using credit card skimming technology at gas pumps.

Albert Jose Gonzalez, 39, of Lancaster, Josue Gustavo Albizuras, 42, of Los Angeles, and Cesar Vasquez Echeverria, 28, of Santa Clarita were arrested Feb. 25 after a three-year investigation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and FBI. They face multiple counts of conspiracy, identity theft, grand theft and computer access fraud.

The suspects, who have pleaded not guilty and are being held in lieu of $2 million bail each, are accused of installing sophisticated skimming devices on computerized pay pumps at gas stations to record credit and debit card information and personal identifying numbers from unsuspecting customers.

The defendants later returned "to harvest the information" by downloading it to computers or other digital devices, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

At the time of the arrests, authorities had recovered 10,000 stolen credit and debit card numbers, as well as computers, cellphones, digital storage devices and equipment designed to make and encode credit and debit cards. They also confiscated $40,000 in cash and luxury vehicles, including a new Porsche and a Ferrari.

If convicted on all counts, the men face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.

-- Andrew Blankstein