LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — The FBI arrested four Southern California men this week for an alleged identity theft scheme that involved using stolen credit cards to fraudulently buy fuel at gas stations.

Federal and local law enforcement officers arrested Vahe Harutunyun, 28, Khachik Karabadzhakyan, 58, and Sedrak Karabadzhakyan, 24, on Thursday.

42-year-old Vardan Mkryan, the manager of several L.A. area gas stations, turned himself in to authorities on Friday, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Mkryan was reportedly the ring leader in a branch of the Armenian power mafia.

The FBI had gas stations in Pacoima and Sun Valley under surveillance for eight months before they had enough evidence to make the arrests.

In a criminal complaint, authorities said the suspects would install credit card skimmers to steal account numbers and then use those cards to buy fuel at the gas stations.

The gas was pumped into large vans or utility trucks outfitted with storage tanks that could hold hundreds of gallons of fuel.

“They would then…resell it and distribute it further, and then keep the profits,” said Eimiller.

The scheme involved identity theft against 50 victims and losses of more than $50,000, according to the FBI.

The men were all charged with fraud and conspiracy charges. They could spend up to 10 years in federal prison, if convicted.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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