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    Fourth Stop & Shop Suspect Strikes Plea Deal

    QUINCY, Mass. -- A fourth man accused of tampering with PIN pads at several New England Stop & Shops as part of a scheme to steal shoppers' debit and credit card information has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy, according to published reports.

    QUINCY, Mass. -- A fourth man accused of tampering with PIN pads at several New England Stop & Shops as part of a scheme to steal shoppers' debit and credit card information has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy, according to published reports.

    Mikael Stepanian is the last of four men arrested in February at a Stop & Shop in Coventry, R.I. after store associates alerted police. The other men charged in the scheme, Gevork Baltadjian, Arutyun Shatarevyan, and Arman Ter-Esayan, have already pleaded guilty to the same charges in U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I. Stepanian is scheduled to appear in the same court today.

    Fraudulent charges or withdrawals totaling $132,000 were made in Arizona and California on at least 232 out of over 1,000 compromised credit and debit accounts of Stop & Shop customers, according to U.S. Secret Service agents.

    The four men, all California residents, could receive up to five years' imprisonment on the first charge and at least two more years in prison on the second, in addition to fines of up to $250,000 on each charge.

    Sentencing for Ter-Esayan, Baltadjian, and Shatarevyan's will take place in September. All four are in custody at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, R.I.

    In other Ahold Banner news, Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover will unveil new, lower prices for water and juice products, in addition to water filtration systems and accessories, as part of the supermarkets' continued rollout of their Value Improvement Program (VIP).

    VIP, which offers low everyday prices, as well as promotions, in a range of categories, has already been applied to cereal, produce, paper, baby, pet, and cleaning supplies departments. The banners introduced the program in the fall of 2006.

    According to a statement by Andrea Astrachan, v.p. of consumer affairs for Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover, "Since we launched VIP, customers have raved to us about our quality, presentation, and lower prices. We want them to know that there is more to come."

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