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Inquiry unearths card-skimming fraud, identity theft at gas station pumps

Investigation unearths a series of fraud and identity theft in a secret card-reading device hidden in gas station pumps in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Modified: September 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: September 19, 2013

A federal case involving two men accused of skimming credit and debit card account numbers from gas station pumps offers a glimpse into the world of high-tech fraud and identity theft on an international level.

The two men, Kevin Konstantinov, 51, and Elvin Alisuretove, 36, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court here Thursday to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They live in Seattle, but they also have ties to Russia.

In July, a federal indictment accused Konstantinov and Alisuretove of defrauding five Oklahoma banks, four in Durant and one in Oklahoma City, out of about $400,000 in a scheme that involved stealing credit and debit card account numbers.

To do so, between April 2012 and January 2013, they placed card readers, or “skimmers,” inside the gas pumps at Murphy USA stations in Little Rock and Conway, Ark., and Durant, the indictment stated. Murphy USA stations are pay-at-the-pump and located in Walmart parking lots nationwide.

These skimmers would collect account numbers, card numbers and PINs as customers placed credit cards in the slots to pay for gas. The devices operated in place for one to two months before the men retrieved them and the account numbers to use on counterfeit cards.

A skimmer like the men used “captures all the card information, and the cardholder would have no way of knowing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Roberts said. They gained access through a universal key that opens the type of pumps common to all Murphy USA stations, he said.

Investigators estimated there were between 50 and 500 victims whose account numbers were stolen using this method, Roberts said. The losses in all the states involved could be as much as $1 million, Roberts said, but the indictment only tracks the $400,000.

Fraudulent transactions occurred in Oklahoma, Eastern Europe and Russia, the indictment stated.

Alisuretove was arrested in Seattle, and Konstantinov was arrested in Virginia with others from Russia, including a fugitive who was wanted in the same kind of crimes in California. With them were skimmers, iPads, smartphones, computers, gas pump keys and related items, Roberts said. “Our first hit came into Durant. A huge amount of cardholders' cards were compromised all at the same time,” Roberts said.

An investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and Muskogee and Durant police departments connected all the compromised accounts to cards used at gas pumps. The conspirators then used the cards weeks later to make withdrawals at 7-Eleven stores in Oklahoma City, he said. A tip led investigators to a rental car and identification of those involved, and the Secret Service tracked them for about four months.

“We mapped out a pattern of how they moved. They would go from one town to the next,” Roberts said.

Konstantinov remains in the Muskogee County jail; Alisuretove is out on “pretrial release conditions” and is being monitored in Seattle, Roberts said. Both appeared in court Thursday for the guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven P. Shreder. The two now await sentencing as their cases go through a presentence investigation, Roberts noted.

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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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