Former Wells Fargo Branch Manager and Two Others Charged with Laundering Proceeds of Trademark Scam
LOS ANGELES – The former manager of a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Glendale has been arrested and arraigned on federal charges that allege he was part of a scheme to launder the proceeds of a mass mailing scam targeting holders of U.S. trademarks. Two other Los Angeles-area men had previously been charged for perpetrating the scam and committing bank fraud in furtherance of the scam.
Albert Yagubyan, 36, of Burbank, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges contained in a second superseding indictment filed on July 14. The indictment charges Yagubyan with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, four counts of concealment money laundering, one count of false bank entries and one count of witness tampering. A trial in the case was scheduled for September 13.
Artashes Darbinyan, 36, of Glendale; and Orbel Hakobyan, 41, also of Glendale, were previously charged in this case. Darbinyan and Hakobyan are charged in the second superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Hakobyan is also charged with three counts of concealment money laundering. Darbinyan is charged with four counts of mail fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, five counts of concealment money laundering and one count of bank fraud.
“The new defendant added in this case allegedly used his position of trust at a large financial institution to further a scheme that bilked trademark holders,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In addition, the co-schemers used stolen identities to further mask this scheme. Activities such as this scheme threaten the stability of financial transactions upon which businesses depend.”
According to the second superseding indictment, Yagubyan was the manager of a Wells Fargo branch in Glendale until October 2015. The indictment alleges that from 2013 to 2015, Yagubyan allowed Darbinyan and Hakobyan to open bogus bank accounts at the Wells Fargo branch through which proceeds of the trademark scam could be laundered in exchange for a share of the proceeds. Darbinyan and Hakobyan deposited checks from the victims of the mass mailing scam into bogus accounts at Wells Fargo, then Yagubyan allegedly instructed Wells Fargo employees to approve withdrawals by Darbinyan and Hakobyan from those accounts, even though the two men were not the signatories on the accounts, according to the second superseding indictment.
The indictment unsealed yesterday alleges that with Yagubyan’s assistance, Darbinyan and Hakobyan were able to launder $1.29 million into gold and cash through Wells Fargo.
“Let this indictment serve as a warning to all professionals, including bank managers, who open bogus bank accounts and launder the proceeds of a fraudulent scheme – you will be held accountable for your actions,” said Aimee E. Schabilion, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “This joint investigation continues to demonstrate our efforts to ensure that our financial institutions will not be abused by those serving their own selfish greed at the expense of others.”
Yagubyan is also charged with making false bank entries for allegedly instructing a Wells Fargo employee to open an account for Darbinyan under the identity of another person. The second superseding indictment also charges Yagubyan with witness tampering for instructing a Wells Fargo employee to withhold the truth from federal investigators.
The second superseding indictment was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker; Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Los Angeles Division; Inspector in Charge Maria Kelokates of the USPIS, Washington Division; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Aimee E. Schabilion of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Los Angeles Field Office.
Darbinyan was originally charged in October 2015 with 12 counts of mail fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. A first superseding indictment filed in January 2016 charged Darbinyan and Hakobyan each with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of bank fraud. Darbinyan was additionally charged with mail fraud, aggravated identity and money laundering counts.
“The Postal Inspection Service aggressively pursues mail fraud suspects as well as those that help launder ill-gotten proceeds of mail fraud,” said Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss. “Our investigations won’t end until all Postal Service customers, including U.S. trademark applicants, are protected.”
The charges and allegations in the second superseding indictment, as well as those in the original and first superseding indictments, are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The USPIS and IRS-CI investigated the case. Justice Department Trial Attorneys William E. Johnston and Brian K. Kidd of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.