Federal charges have been filed against a man for making and using counterfeit credit and debit cards that had been encoded with information skimmed from gas pumps in Las Vegas and elsewhere, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden announced in a statement Monday.
Zelalem Berhe, 41, of Las Vegas, is charged in a criminal indictment with five counts of bank fraud, possession of 15 or more counterfeit access devices (credit/debit or gift cards), possession of access device making equipment, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment was returned Aug. 10 and unsealed Sunday when he was arrested in Las Vegas.
If convicted, Berhe faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on each bank fraud count, up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each access device count, and a minimum of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft charge, which must be served consecutively to the sentence for any other count. Berhe is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate judge in Las Vegas today .
From about April 16, 2009, to May 4, 2010, the indictment alleges that Berhe and unnamed others installed devices used to steal the magnetic information from credit/debit cards at gas pumps in the Las Vegas area, as well as in other locations, including Florida and Arizona.
Berhe and others used computers, encoders and software programs to transfer the stolen credit and debit card information to counterfeit credit and debit cards.
Berhe and others are alleged to have skimmed about 13,800 credit and debit card account numbers using this system, and unlawfully used the stolen account numbers to fraudulently obtain about $591,872 from more than 10 financial institutions, according to the indictment.