Member of Armenian Power Crime Organization and Three Associates Convicted for Roles in Identity Theft
The five week trial of one of California's largest bank fraud and identity theft schemes in Californian history is over. All four defendants were convicted in the case.
The case involved dozens of victims in four states as well as millions of dollars in losses.
Arman Sharopetrosian, Karen Markosian, Artush Margaryan, and Kristine Ogandzhanyan were found guilty of conspiring to commit bank fraud, attempted bank fraud, and various counts of aggravated identity theft. Sharopetrosian, Markosian, and Ogandzhanyan waived a jury trial and consented to trial by the judge, and Margaryan proceeded with a jury trial.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter found Ogandzhanyan, 28, of Burbank, California, guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, two counts of attempted bank fraud, and four counts of aggravated identity theft. On March 16, 2012, the judge found Sharopetrosian, 33, of Burbank, guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identify theft.
On March 16, 2012, the judge also found Markosian, 39, of Glendale, California, guilty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of attempted bank fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. A jury convicted the fourth defendant, Artush Margaryan, 28, of Van Nuys, California, on March 16, 2012 of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of attempted bank fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, Sharopetrosian and his co-defendant, Angus Brown, while both were incarcerated in the Avenal State Prison, used smuggled cell phones to orchestrate and direct the other three defendants to collect confidential bank profile information then steal money from the victims' accounts. They used information such as name, social security numbers, and birth dates in phone calls to the banks to impersonate the victims and gather account information, transfer money, authorize check orders. Signatures were forged and paid conspirators to cash the checks.
In the six years of their operation, over $10 million was stolen from victims in Southern California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.
“These defendants, including two individuals who were operating from a prison cell, perpetrated a massive fraudulent scheme on behalf of a dangerous criminal enterprise,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “As members and associates of Armenian Power, they stole sensitive personal and financial information from innocent consumers and caused millions of dollars in losses. Whether organized criminal groups traffic in drugs, commit financial fraud or wreak other havoc to keep themselves going, they must be stopped. We are doing everything possible to shut down dangerous gangs like Armenian Power.”
“The defendants were convicted in a trial that uncovered a sophisticated and lengthy scheme that targeted victims in multiple states and included disturbing details, such as orders made from within prison walls and assistance from bank insiders enlisted by the defendants,” said FBI Assistant Director Martinez. “This case is also indicative of the growing trend of gang or organized crime-affiliated groups now engaging in identity theft and other financial crimes in furtherance of their enterprise.”
This now leaves only one of 20 defendants in the case awaiting trial. The 19 others have all been convicted. The sole remaining ddefendant is Faye Bell. She was arrested earlier this year and is awaiting trial.
The four current defendants face a maximum 30 years for each count of bank fraud and an additional maximum of 30 years for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The is also a maximum two years for each count of identity theft.