Mola Lenghi, NBC 5 Arlington Reporter
Aleksandr Goukasian will spend the next 20 years behind bars after he was convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars by installing skimming devices on the pumps at North Texas gas stations.
A man who was found guilty this summer of breaking into gas pumps and stealing credit and debit card information will spend the next 20 years in prison.
Aleksandr Goukasian, 52, was sentenced Monday to two 20-year sentences that will run concurrently.
Goukasian, 52, was found guilty in June for installing devices that recorded credit and debit card numbers -- including pins -- in gas pumps. He then used the stolen information to clone card numbers and use them at ATMs.
"These were very serious offenses; I want you to understand that," State District Judge Wayne Salvant. "They require serious consequences, not only was the theft in great numbers, but it's just something that everyone takes very serious because we all use service stations to buy gas."
"Even to this day, people are cautious when they approach a service station, myself included," Salvant said after reading the sentence.
Goukasian had a universal key that allowed him to open a common type of gas pump and install the devices when stores were closed or clerks weren't watching, police said.
His defense team pushed for probation during Monday's sentencing hearing.
Several character witnesses told the court Monday that the Goukasian they knew was a kind and caring man who was always ready to help.
Goukasian's brother told the court that his brother would be best served by probation and that he believed his brother could still be a good citizen.
"He's a decent person, and he's very caring," he said. "He takes good care of my parents."
But prosecutors described Goukasian as a sophisticated criminal who targeted people doing a very basic task -- filling up their gas tank.
"He was indiscriminate, and that was the worst part about it, and these people were unsuspecting," Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Lori Burks said. "And the worst part about this is, it really shakes people confidence in our financial system."
"The fact that ... he got almost $300,000 out of one skimmer and we found almost 40 -- that's a lot of money," Burks said. "I think it was too egregious for probation."
Goukasian was charged with one count of unlawful use of electronic communications, four counts of unlawful possession of an electronic intercept device, one count of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of fraudulently possessing or using identifying information.
"There was a concerted effort to amass large sums of money from unsuspecting people, and a lot of people just couldn't afford it," Salvant said. "I don't think anyone could afford it. People work hard for their money."
Goukasian will have to serve nearly seven years of his concurrent 20-year sentences before he's eligible for parole.