Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force Members Arrest 12 Individuals Following Federal Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft Charges
Las Vegas, Nev. – Twelve persons have been arrested and charged with federal credit card fraud and identity theft crimes following a two-year long investigation by a joint federal, state and local organized crime task force, announced Greg Brower, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
The defendants were arrested on Monday, December 8, 2008, in the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas by members of a Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force. The Task Force was formed over two years ago in Las Vegas to deal with the growing presence of Eurasian organized crime in the southwestern United States, particularly in Las Vegas. The arrests are the first results from the cooperative and coordinated efforts of the involved agencies.
The defendants are charged in five separate federal indictments, which were returned on November 18, 2008, and sealed until the arrests could be made. Most of the defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge at 3:00 pm today.
The indictments allege that the defendants were stealing customer credit and debit card information from local businesses and manufacturing counterfeit cards which were used to unlawfully obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash and merchandise in the Las Vegas area. The indictment further alleges that the defendants caused skimming equipment to be used at the businesses to capture unauthorized magnetic credit and debit card account information and personal identification numbers. Skimming is a process by which individuals steal the magnetic information placed on the rear of credit and debit cards by capturing it with a "wedge" or other skimming instrument. It is estimated that over 1,000 credit and debit cards were compromised as a result of the alleged crimes and that total losses to the victims and merchants is approximately $1.5 million.
"The theft of personal credit information is a significant problem nationwide and is especially acute here in Nevada," said U.S. Attorney Brower. "The U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to combating this type of crime through the use of coordinated, aggressive investigative and prosecutorial efforts."
The defendants and case information is as follows:
USA v. Alen Torosyan, Tigran Saponjyan, and Paulette Vartan, Case No. 02:08-CR-0310
Defendants Torosyan, 31, of Henderson, Nevada; Saponjyan, 29, of La Habra, California, and Vartan, 30, of Henderson, Nevada, are charged with producing, using and trafficking in counterfeit credit/debit cards, aggravated identity theft, and criminal forfeiture. The Indictment alleges that in November 2007, they possessed approximately 628 account numbers and magnetic identifiers of credit and debit cards issued to other persons, as well as approximately eight cards which had been encoded with "skimmed" account numbers and magnetic identifiers of credit cards and debit cards issued to other persons. The Indictment also alleges that the defendants used counterfeit credit/debit/gift cards which had been issued to other persons.
USA v. Arytom Matevosyan, Mikayel Akopyan, and Gergana Hristova,
Case No. 02:08-CR-0309
Defendants Matevosyan, 22, Akopyan, 24, and Hristova, 26, all of Las Vegas, are charged with producing, using and trafficking in counterfeit credit/debit cards, making fraudulent transactions using credit/debit cards issued to other persons, and criminal forfeiture. The Indictment alleges that from about November 2007 to June 2008, the defendants used counterfeit cards to receive merchandise and other things of value greater than $1,000.
USA v. Gor Krkhyan, Case No. 02:08-CR-0308
Defendant Krkhyan, 25, of Las Vegas, is charged with producing, using and trafficking in counterfeit credit/debit cards, aggravated identity theft, and criminal forfeiture. The Indictment alleges that on January 2, 2008, Krkhyan used two counterfeit credit cards containing magnetic identifying information belonging to other persons.
USA v. Arman Palikyan, Hagob Palikyan, Armen Ambartsumyan, Gary Ambartsumyan, and Vakhtang Gasparian, Case No. 02:08-CR-0311
Defendants Arman Palikyan, 28, Hagob Palikyan, 30, Armen Ambartsumyan, 28, Gary Ambartsumyan, 24, and Vakhtang Gasparian, 31, all of Las Vegas, are charged with conspiracy, trafficking in, production, and use of counterfeit access devices, making fraudulent transactions with access devices issued to other persons, aggravated identity theft, and criminal forfeiture. The indictment alleges that defendant Vakhtang Gasparian used unauthorized magnetic credit and debit card account information to manufacture counterfeit credit and debit cards. All of the defendants allegedly used the counterfeit credit and debit cards to fraudulently obtain money. Specifically, in March and April 2008, defendants Arman Palikyan, Hagob Palikyan and Armen Ambartsumyan, used the counterfeit cards to obtain cash from ATM machines in Las Vegas, and from July through September 2008, defendants Arman Palikyan, Armen Ambartsumyan, Vakhtang Gasparian, and Gary Ambartsumyan used the counterfeit cards to fraudulently obtain money orders from Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets in Las Vegas.
USA v. Vakhtang Gasparian and Krystalyn Northwick, Case No. 02:08-CR-0307
Defendants Vakhtang Gasparian, 31, and Krystalyn Northwick, 25, of Las Vegas, are charged with possession of 15 or counterfeit access devices and criminal forfeiture. According to the Indictment, from about December 8, 2006, until May 7, 2008, the defendants possessed 15 or more counterfeit access devices.
Law enforcement officials also seized three vehicles and computer equipment used in the manufacture of counterfeit credit and debit cards.
The investigation is being conducted primarily by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and Henderson Police Department. Other members of the Eurasian Armenian Task Force include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS, Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Glendale, California Police Department, Office of the Inspector General for Health and Human Services, Los Angeles, California Sheriff's Department, Nevada Attorney General's Office, Nevada Gaming Control Board, Phoenix, Arizona Police Department, San Diego, California Sheriff's Office, Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly M. Frayn and Eric Johnson.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.