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Number of victims rises to 380 in Sierra Madre gas station fraud

January 10, 2011 | 11:47 am

Police have identified 380 victims of credit or debit card fraud at a Sierra Madre gas station with losses exceeding $109,000, Police Chief Marilyn Diaz said Monday.

Authorities were seeking more scam victims at EVG Quality Gas, which suddenly shut down after Christmas. Within days, hundreds of people found their credit or debit cards had been used without their authorization.

“The fraudulent charges arising from credit and debit cards used at the EVG station are showing up both as EVG charges and charges to other retail establishments, both in California and out of state," Diaz said. "Anyone who has used a credit or debit card at EVG in the past 12 months should report any fraudulent charges to Sierra Madre police.”

Police said 75% of the victims are residents of the foothill community who had used cards at the station since July. Investigators are seeking to question station owner Evgeny K. Yakimenko, who has not been seen since the station closed.

Authorities described him as “a person of interest" in the investigation. Little is known about Yakimenko, who acquired the station early last year from a man who owns another gas station in the community, Diaz said.

Police also are looking for two other people connected to the station. Diaz said the credit and debit cards were skimmed using an electronic device that snags account information.

In some cases, the victim's card information was used to charge purchases; in other instances, cloned cards were created to make retail purchases elsewhere or to withdraw money from bank accounts.

Under the law in most cases, an individual is liable for no more than $50 of the fraud on each card. The first identity theft case was reported to police Dec. 27.

Victims can report fraud at the Sierra Madre police station anytime, Diaz said. For more information, call (626) 355-1414.


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-- Richard Winton