Lead Defendant Pleads Guilty to Using Hundreds of Stolen Identities to Steal More Than $1.5 Million from U.S. Treasury
SAN DIEGO—Arthur Grigorian admitted in federal court today that he defrauded the Internal Revenue Service of over $1.5 million by filing false tax returns in the names of stolen identities. Grigorian’s plea was the 27th conviction obtained by prosecutors since charges were filed in four related cases as part of a joint investigation by the FBI and IRS, dubbed “Operation Trillion Troubles,” in September, 2013.
Grigorian, the lead defendant in one indictment, admitted stealing personal identity information from unwitting victims in order to file false tax returns in their names. These false returns generated well over $1.5 million in fraudulent tax refunds that should never have been taken from the U.S. Treasury. According to the indictment, Grigorian and his conspirators falsely claimed refunds in the names of the victims in a number of ways, all of which involved some form of falsified income and withholdings. Most commonly, the conspirators claimed that the victims – many of whom were elderly and had not filed federal income tax returns in years – made tens of thousands of dollars in gambling winnings before losing nearly the identical amount.
The “losses” effectively canceled out the fabricated winnings, thus entitling the conspirators to a refund for the amount allegedly withheld on the initial winnings. As part of this scheme, Grigorian and his fellow conspirators directed the IRS to send the ill-gotten refunds to postal addresses and/or bank accounts under their control. The conspirators then would often circulate the money through several other accounts before withdrawing it and distributing the money amongst the group.
For his part, Grigorian admitted in court today that he stole the identities of people to use on the fraudulent tax returns, provided this personal information to conspirators, obtained fraudulent identification documents in the names of the stolen identity theft victims, facilitated the receipt of the ill-gotten funds, and enforced discipline on others related to the conspiracy. In all, Grigorian admitted to participating in filing false tax returns in the names of hundreds of victims. According to his plea agreement, Grigorian personally profited from his role in the organization’s activities.
Grigorian faces a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison. He is also required by the terms of his plea to make full restitution to the IRS for the losses caused by his criminal conduct, which totaled nearly $1.5 million.
Grigorian’s plea is the latest of 27 convictions following the September 2013 arrests of dozens of people in “Operation Trillion Troubles.” The four related cases charged the individuals with multiple tax fraud conspiracies and several schemes to defraud American banks. In all, over 58 defendants have been charged and 28 remain as international fugitives.
United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy praised the hard work of the agents from the FBI and IRS on their continued success in these related cases. “Today’s guilty plea marks the culmination of the investigation and prosecution of a network of individuals whose scope of criminal actions was only exceeded by their brazen disregard for the sanctity of victims’ personal identity information. Our citizens’ identities are not commodities for criminals to trade and exploit for their own personal gain. Our office will continue to prosecute those who illegally take advantage of others at the expense of the American taxpayer.”
FBI Acting Special In Charge Robert Howe commented, “Today’s conviction is an example of the FBI’s commitment to root out sophisticated fraudulent schemes by criminal enterprises. In this case, the defendant and his co-conspirators were involved in an elaborate scheme using Visa holders and stolen personal information to steal millions of dollars from American taxpayers. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect American citizens from aggravated identity theft and protect our precious tax dollars from waste, fraud and abuse.”
Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation commented: “Identity theft and tax refund fraud was the lifeblood that Arthur Grigorian and his conspirators used to further their multi-million dollar fraud scheme. Operation Trillion Troubles exhibits the efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to protect the integrity of the federal tax administration system. Today’s guilty plea by Arthur Grigorian, the leader of the crime ring, demonstrates IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment to holding accountable those individuals who victimize others through identity theft and tax refund fraud.”
- Arthur Grigorian
- Age: 33
- Glendale, CA
Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: five years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine