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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

“Pure Armenian Blood” Members And Associates Indicted For Racketeering And Fraud Offenses

Coast-to-Coast Enterprise Operated under the Criminal Patronage of a U.S.-Based Vor v Zakone

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in New York, announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging eight defendants with a variety of racketeering and fraud offenses.  Of the eight defendants, NAREK MARUTYAN, ALBERT MARUTYAN, MIKAYEL YEGHOYAN, DAVIT YEGHOYAN, and VAHE HOVHANNISYAN are associated with a coast-to-coast racketeering enterprise referred to as “Pure Armenian Blood” or “P.A.B.” and are charged in United States v. Narek Marutyan, et al. (the “Indictment”), which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.  Of those defendants, MIKAYEL YEGHOYAN and DAVIT YEGHOYAN were taken into federal custody and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn today.  Two defendants, ALBERT MURATYAN and VAHE HOVHANNISYAN, were presented in the Central District of California.

Three additional defendants, LUSINE GHAZARYAN, SARO MOURADIAN, a/k/a “Paul Mouradian,” and ZAVEN YERKARYAN, are charged in the Indictment with fraud-related offenses.  Of those defendants, GHAZARYAN was taken into federal custody today and were presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn; YERKARYAN was presented in the Central District of California before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick .  MOURADIAN will be presented in the Southern District of Florida before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Pure Armenian Blood members enriched themselves and their criminal associates through a raft of fraudulent schemes that included years’ long efforts to steal others’ identities, falsify documents, and spend other people’s money as though there were no consequences.  Thanks to the remarkable efforts of our agency partners, spearheaded by the FBI, members of this nationwide network of crime will now face serious consequences in the form of federal charges.”

FBI Assistant William F. Sweeney Jr. said: "The members of this enterprise acted as if they were in another time, much like fiefdoms operated in the Dark Ages in which tributes were paid to protect fellow criminals and settle disputes between members under the benevolence of the vor.  However the actions we allege they've taken, like using electronic devices to steal people's identities, using fake credit cards and setting up fake lines of credit at U.S. banks, are all modern day crimes. As a consequence, they now face modern justice."

HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said:  “The only thing pure about this alleged crime syndicate is their thirst for stealing from our communities and endangering the security of our homeland from coast to coast.  HSI New York is relentless in our pursuit of dismantling transnational criminal organizations, and we are grateful to have this opportunity working with our federal partners to ensure those involved will now face justice.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[[1]]

Pure Armenian Blood was an organized criminal group operating under the direction and protection of an unindicted co-conspirator (“CC-1”), a “vor v zakone” or “vor,” which are Russian phrases translated roughly as “Thief-in-Law” or “Thief,” and which refer to an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognized status as vor to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals.  Members and associates of Pure Armenian Blood operated under the direction and protection of CC-1, a vor of Armenian descent previously based in Los Angeles before being deported in or about 2018.  Pure Armenian Blood operated through groups of individuals, often with overlapping members or associates, dedicated to particular criminal tasks, particularly identity theft, access device fraud and credit card fraud, among others.  While Pure Armenian Blood exploited victims and the financial system in New York City, it had operations in various locations throughout the United States and abroad, including through the use of purportedly legitimate business entities operating under the control and in conjunction with members of P.A.B. at various points throughout the conspiracy.

NAREK MARUTYAN, ALBERT MARUTYAN, a/k/a “Abo,” MIKAYEL YEGHOYAN, a/k/a “Misho,” DAVIT YEGHOYAN and VAHE HOVHANNISYAN are charged in Count One of the Indictment with racketeering conspiracy.  P.A.B.’s illicit activities included:

  • The use of counterfeit credit cards and stolen personal identifying information;
  • Selling goods purchased with counterfeit credit cards for profit;
  • Fraudulently opening and exhausting lines of credit, and then falsifying documents to “clean” the credit of account holders in whose names the lines of credit were opened (the “Account Holders”), who were often relatives or acquaintances of members and associates of Pure Armenian Blood;
  • Selling access device fraud devices to other criminals to install in order to steal personal identifying information; and
  • Making purchases at collusive businesses with counterfeit credit cards or credit cards that were fraudulently opened.

 

Along with Pure Armenian Blood members NAREK MARUTYAN, ALBERT MARUTYAN, a/k/a “Abo,” MIKAYEL YEGHOYAN, a/k/a “Misho,” DAVIT YEGHOYAN and VAHE HOVHANNISYAN, two additional defendants, LUSO GHAZARYAN and SARO MOURADIAN, a/k/a “Paul Mouradian,” are charged in Counts Two and Three with conspiracy to commit fraud relating to means of identification and conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Each of these seven defendants, as well as ZAVEN YERKARYAN, are charged in Count Four with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Defendants MIKAYEL YEGHOYAN and DAVIT YEGHOYAN are each charged with one count of Aggravated Identity Theft, in Counts Five and Six, respectively.

*          *          *

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of FBI New York’s Eurasian Organized Crime Squad, as well as the FBI’s New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Miami offices, Homeland Security Investigations, the New York City Police Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and United States Customs and Border Protection for their investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.  This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) operation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transitional Criminal Enterprise Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benet J. Kearney and Abigail S. Kurland are in charge of the case.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation. 

Contact: 
James Margolin, Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
20-280
Updated December 8, 2020