Plymouth Police uncovered a lot more than they were expecting during a routine traffic stop shortly after midnight on July 6.
A California couple has been charged with nine counts each of identity theft and illegal financial card transactions in connection with a sophisticated scheme involving credit card readers at gas pumps.
A husband and wife duo were pulled over after officer’s were performing a speed check on Highway 169 and 26th Avenue in Plymouth when they clocked their vehicle going 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone.
The driver, Sarkis Mkhsyan, 29, had a California ID, but no driver’s license on him, but did show a speeding ticket in Iowa with his driver’s license. The SUV he was driving was rented by passenger Gohar Yesayan, 28, in Denver and had Florida license plates.
Officers noticed Mkhsyan sweating profusely and seemed to be very nervous and agitated while Yesayan avoided all eye contact with officers and stared straight ahead.
In plain view, officers observed three different cell phones and energy drinks. With the information at hand, officers suspected possible criminal activity involving drug trafficking.
With the help of a K-9 officer, what police found instead was a plastic bag stuffed inside a small compartment behind a fuel pump switch that had several credit cards in both Yesayan and Mkhsyan’s names. The bag also contained a small compact disc. In the rear of the SUV, officers found a large magnetic card reading devise as well as a computer software to support the disc.
Officers also found four different cell phones, an additional compact disc, flash drive, a marijuana joint, a cordless drill, screwdriver bits and four pieces of paper found in Yesayan’s purse containing a list of nearly 100 gas station names and addresses in the Metro area.
After checking the couple’s GPS, officers uncovered they had recently stopped at numerous gas stations in the area. Upon arriving to a New Hope Shell station, 6400 36th Ave. S., police found skimming devices in six of the eight fuel pumps.
The couple also had the credit card information for eight residents who later confirmed that they used their bankcards at the New Hope gas station.
In May, Mkhsyan was arrested in Glendale, Calif., and was charged with identify theft after he was found 40 handwritten Social Security numbers and electronic storage devices with additional Social Security numbers and fake credit cards. Mkhsyan later posted bail and was freed.
Police could not find any apparent connection between the California couple and Minnesota.
They both remain in Hennepin County jail in lieu of bail. Their next court appearance is July 31.