By Mary O’KEEFE
Police responding to what appeared to be a routine traffic accident ended up finding an apparent busy identity theft operation.
An accident occurred on Tuesday about 1:30 p.m. on Foothill Boulevard at New York Avenue. The driver of the car who apparently caused the accident had left the scene. The driver of the other vehicle suffered minor abrasions and was transported to the hospital.
As Glendale officers investigated, the driver of the fleeing vehicle, later identified as Edvard Bagumyan, 32, of Tujunga, continued traveling westbound on Foothill Boulevard. He turned onto Willalee Avenue and then again on Danny Street where he pulled up and parked in front of a home.
The resident of the home happened to be in his garage when he noticed Bagumyan had parked, said Sgt. Suttles, GPD.
The resident allegedly watched Bagumyan exit, go to the back of the vehicle and take a backpack from the trunk. He then walked toward Foothill Boulevard, leaving his car parked on Danny Street.
“There are businesses on Willalee Avenue and Foothill Boulevard,” Suttles said. “Witnesses saw [Bagumyan] throw a backpack into a [garbage bin].”
Suttles added that other people had witnessed Bagumyan throwing the backpack into the garbage bin and then walk back toward his vehicle.
The witnesses contacted the Los Angeles Police Dept.
“It happened that an LAPD officer was driving by, so they waved him down. He detained the [suspect],” he said.
When GPD officers arrived and conducted a search of the backpack and vehicle, they found an embosser that is commonly used to create fraudulent credit cards. Police also reportedly found several credit cards.
“Over 200 cards were in his backpack,” Suttles said.
They also found a piece of hardware to hook up to a computer that would allow him to read credit card numbers from skimmers, a device often attached to machines like on a gas pump. When the user runs the card through it, they unknowingly leave their credit card number on the skimmer. The criminal then picks the skimmer up at some point and downloads the data gathered.
In the vehicle Bagumyan was driving investigators found a computer and master keys.
“The master keys open up pumps on gas station [pumps],” Suttles said.
Police obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s Tujunga home where he lived with his parents.
They found a skimmer device, about $10,000, more credit cards and other miscellaneous items that are commonly used in credit card fraud.
“It [appears] he was using the skimmers to get everything he needed,” Suttles said. “The interesting thing is had this guy got into the accident and not ran, there would have been no reason to search his car.”
Suttles said he sees a lot of identity thefts via skimmers. They are often on ATM and gas station pumps. He suggested that people use cash whenever they can.
“And there is a 76 station by me that the station owner has put padlocks on the pumps,” he added.
It is more difficult to get past the padlock than the standard pump lock.
“I would look for station owners like that who take the extra [effort],” Suttles added.