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Two Men Arrested for Installing Debit Card Skimmer, Cameras on Santa Barbara ATMs

Two men were arrested last week for allegedly installing a debit card skimming device and miniature cameras on two ATMs on Santa Barbara's State Street, and are believed to be responsible for several other similar cases throughout Southern California, police said. 

Mike Vartabedian, 42, of Pasadena and Hagop Krikor Soukiassian, 37, of Glendale, were arrested May 30 for the crimes of burglary, conspiracy, and possession or use of a scanning device with the intent to defraud, according to Sgt. Riley Harwood of Santa Barbara Police Department.

Card skimmers and cameras are used by criminals to steal debit card and credit card information and PIN numbers for fraudulent use, he said.

A Chase Bank fraud investigator contacted the Santa Barbara Police Department to advise that a card skimmer and miniature cameras had been placed on and around two Chase Bank ATMs located at 3307 State St. on May 30, Harwood said.

The investigator was not in Santa Barbara, but observed the activity via the bank and ATM security cameras and said that the suspects would likely return to the scene within a few hours.

"In this instance, the card skimmer had been installed on the door to the vestibule where the ATMs were located," Harwood said.

Afterhours customers are required to swipe their debit cards at the door in order to gain access to the machines, and investigation revealed that Vartabedian had installed miniature cameras on each of the ATMs, Harwood said.

Hagop Krikor Soukiassian

Mike Vartabedian

Police responded to the scene and at 7:29 p.m., about an hour and a half after the investigator notified police, Soukiassian was observed quickly removing the skimmer and cameras that had previously been installed by Vartabedian.  

As the men were driving away, they were stopped by officers at gunpoint and taken into custody.

"The card skimmer and cameras used in the crime were recovered, along with other evidence," Harwood said.

Neither suspect would provide investigators with a statement, but Harwood said the men are believed to be involved in several other similar cases that have occurred throughout Southern California.  

Both were booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on the aforementioned charges with bail amounts of $250,000.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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