Wednesday Jun 30 2010
Pizza-tossing brothers charged with credit card fraud
By: Brad Smith Telegraph Correspondent
Folsom police arrested two brothers for allegedly being part of a credit card skimming ring. Officer Jason Browning, of the Folsom Police Department, said Arutyan Morzovanyan, 29, and his brother Murad, 22, were arrested after their Rancho Cordova residence and their family-owned Folsom Family Pizza were searched by police Thursday. "Both searches (in Rancho Cordova and Folsom) turned up fake credit cards," Browning said. "The brothers were arrested on charges of alleged unauthorized use of credit cards and identity theft." The arrests stem from a multi-jurisdictional investigation that started earlier this month after police had discovered credit card skimming devices placed in Folsom, Auburn and Sacramento gas stations. A similar device was found in Rocklin earlier this year. Browning said investigators believe that the Morzovanyan brothers might be part of a larger ring of credit card skimmers and identity thieves working in the area. "Law enforcement agencies from Sacramento and Placer counties are working on this case," he said. "It's possible that other counties and their agencies will be part of it as well. The group (of identity thieves) appear to be large, complex and well organized." Browning said the Morzovanyan brothers were caught on video surveillance tapes reportedly using forged credit cards to purchase items from the Coach Outlet store in Folsom. "Investigators believe the brothers might have shopped at other stores in the area," Browning said. He said the investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected. Frank Visconti, who owns Visconti Ristorante -- located next to Family Pizza on 2700 E. Bidwell Street -- said he was shocked upon hearing the news. "They (the Morzovanyan brothers) came over here from time to time," he said. "Business was slow for them. They'd come over and sit at the bar, watch a game on TV." Visconti said he liked the brothers. "I've been here a short time and known them for a few months," Visconti said. "They seemed like nice guys to me. We would talk about business and other things. I wasn't expecting something like this." Visconti said he had heard the brothers are denying the charges and said their names will be cleared. "You know, I was shocked when the cops raided their place last week," Visconti said. "I'm still shocked. I hope things work out for them." Local gas stations are attempting to assure customers that it is safe to purchase fuel and other items from them. "Customers have come in and asked if our pumps are safe," Ishwor Adhikiri said, who works at the Folsom 76 on Greenback Lane. "I've told them that we've taken steps to protect card transactions. We're doing everything possible to safeguard their identities." Adhikiri said that customers who use their credit cards inside the store have their IDs ready. "They tell me they understand the need to check for proper identification,' he said. "They've heard what has happened elsewhere and want to cooperate." Browning said that the Morzovanyan brothers posted bail and were released with pending court dates. The Folsom Telegraph attempted to contact the Morzovanyans and Folsom Family Pizza but calls went unanswered.