Armenian Power Members and Three Associates Convicted Of Federal Charges For Roles In I.D. Theft Ring
After a five week trial, a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, yesterday convicted the last of four defendants of bank fraud and identity theft charges based on her part in one of the largest identity theft schemes in California history, with dozens of victims in four states, and millions of dollars in losses.
Kristine Ogandzhanian, 28, of Burbank, CA, was convicted yesterday by United States District Judge David O. Carter of two counts of bank fraud and four counts of aggravated identify theft.
Ogandzhanian and two of her co-defendants waived jury and consented to trial by the judge. The remaining defendant was simultaneously tried by a jury. Last Friday, the judge found Ogandzhanian’s two co-defendants guilty, while the jury convicted the other co-defendant.
Artush Margaryan, 28, of Van Nuys, CA, was convicted by jury of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of bank fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
Arman Sharopetrosian, 33, of Burbank, CA, was convicted by the court of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud, and seven counts of aggravated identify fraud.
Keren Markosian, 39, of Glendale, CA, was convicted by the court of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, one count of bank fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
The evidence presented during trial showed that all four defendants were part of an identity theft scheme that operated for more than six-years, and that caused more than $10 million dollars in losses to victims in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Evidence showed that Sharopetrosian directed and coordinated the fraud scheme from behind bars while incarcerated in state prison at Avenal State Prison, and that the defendants used contacts with insiders in banks to target individual investors’ bank accounts and to illegally obtain confidential personal and financial information.
“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 Lanny A. 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 safety and sanctity of confidential financial information is paramount in today’s society,“ said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Identity theft is a fundamental invasion of consumer privacy that cannot be tolerated. These convictions demonstrate that violators, whoever and wherever they may be, will be caught and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the federal law.”
“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 Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “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.”
The four defendants convicted at trial were among a group of 20 defendants charged with operating the bank fraud and identity theft scheme in one of a series of federal indictments unsealed on February 16, 2011, alleging various federal crimes against members and associates of the Armenian Power organized crime group. Evidence was presented at trial that Sharopetrosian is a member of Armenian Power, while Margaryan, Markosian and Ogandzhanian are Armenian Power associates.
Thus far, 19 of the 20 defendants in the Orange County bank fraud indictment have been convicted. One defendant, Faye Bell, was arrested earlier this year and is still awaiting trial.
Defendants Sharopetrosian, Margaryan, Markosian and Ogandzhanian face maximum sentences of 30 years in federal prison for each count of bank fraud, 30 years for each count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and an additional mandatory two years for each count of aggravated identity theft.
Sentencing for all four defendants is scheduled for Aug 6, 2012, before United States District Judge Carter.
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