New Charges and Defendants Added in Superseding Indictment for Credit Card Scheme
SACRAMENTO, CA—A superseding indictment has been unsealed that charges three defendants for participating a large-scale scheme to defraud over 119,000 credit card account holders by making false charges on their accounts, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The original indictment was returned on March 20, 2014, and charged Mihran Melkonyan, 35, of Sacramento, and Rouslan Akhmerov, 41, of Los Angeles, with 23 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. Akhmerov pleaded guilty to credit card fraud on December 15, 2014, and is awaiting sentencing.
The superseding indictment charges Melkonyan and adds defendants Ruslan Kirilyuk, 37, of Los Angeles, and Aleksandr Maslov, 34, of Sacramento, to the indictment, charging all three defendants with 24 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Kirilyuk is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft. Melkonyan has been in custody since his arrest on April 15, 2015. Maslov was arrested on Tuesday and released on bond. Kirilyuk has yet to appear, and there is a warrant for his arrest.
According to court documents, between October 5, 2011, and March 5, 2014, the defendants participated in a scheme to obtain money from credit card holders, credit card companies, and third-party credit card payment processors by charging individuals’ credit cards without their permission or knowledge for goods and services that were not provided.
The defendants created at least 70 fictitious businesses for the purpose of billing stolen credit cards, using names that sounded legitimate such as 24 Quick Stop, Best Box, Chevran, Marshall Store, Stop Shop Market, Walt Mart, and Whole Store. In some cases, the fictitious businesses had Internet domain names and e-mail addresses associated with them that were used to create the appearance of a legitimate business. Some of these fictitious businesses were established in the names of unknowing victims; for example, the defendants obtained stolen or misappropriated copies of student transcripts from a Sacramento-area high school and used the students’ identities to establish the fictitious businesses.
According to the superseding indictment, the defendants obtained information for credit card accounts and processed a large number of small payments from different credit cards in a relatively short period of time. The credit card providers such as American Express and third-party payment processors such as PayPal credited the businesses’ accounts based on the processed credit card transactions for the purported sales.
As part of the scheme, the defendants opened multiple bank accounts that they controlled using the identity theft victims. These accounts were linked directly to the businesses’ merchant accounts with credit card providers and third-party credit card payment processors. The defendants transferred money from the businesses’ merchant accounts to the bank accounts of the victims, and then withdrew cash from these accounts through ATM withdrawals, using debit cards and other means.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Matthew M. Yelovich are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire and mail fraud. Kirilyuk faces an additional two years in prison consecutive to any other penalty if convicted on the aggravated identity theft count. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.