Ringleader Sentenced in Million-Dollar Bank Fraud Conducted in California and Nevada Casinos
SAN DIEGO—United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced today that Ara Keshishyan was sentenced last Friday to 57 months’ imprisonment for leading and organizing a 14-defendant conspiracy to steal more than $1,000,000 from Citibank using cash advance kiosks in a dozen casinos from Southern California to Las Vegas. Judge Sammartino also ordered Keshishyan to pay back the $1,045,585 stolen from Citibank.
Keshishyan presided over a conspiracy to exploit a gap in Citibank’s electronic transaction security protocols in order to overdraw more than 20 Citibank accounts by tens of thousands of dollars each. The scheme worked as follows: Keshishyan recruited conspirators to open Citibank checking accounts that Keshishyan would fund with “seed” money that would form the basis for future fraudulent withdrawals. Keshishyan and his various conspirators then traveled to casinos in Southern California and Nevada, including the Morongo, Pechanga, San Manuel, Agua Caliente, Chukchansi, and Spa Resort casinos in California; the Tropicana, Wynn, Bicycle, and Whiskey Pete’s casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Harrah’s in Laughlin, Nevada. Once inside the casino, Keshishyan instructed the conspirator how to conduct identical, fraudulent withdrawals at cash advance kiosks within a short time window in order to circumvent Citibank security protocols. Keshishyan’s technique exploited a glitch that allowed his conspirators to withdraw several times the amount of seed money deposited into the accounts. In one case, Keshishyan and one of the co-conspirators were able to withdraw 10 times the amount of money deposited into one of the accounts opened in furtherance of the fraud. The conspirators were careful to keep their deposits and withdrawals under $10,000 (typically between $9,000 and $10,000) in order to avoid federal transaction reporting requirements. As the organizer of the conspiracy, Keshishyan personally took a cut of every fraudulent withdrawal that he directed.
United States Attorney Duffy said, “This is an example of a class of cyber-fraud that burdens our financial system and results in a higher cost of doing business for American consumers. Along with our agency partners, my office is committed to detecting and prosecuting these schemes in whatever form they take.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Daphne Hearn commented, “While advancements in technology have created a world of accessibility to users and a convenience for consumers, they have also left room for cyber criminals to exploit even the smallest of loopholes. The FBI will continue to use our investigative expertise in cyber and financial crimes to pursue those who illegally abuse our financial system for their own personal gain.”
Ara Keshishyan Age: 32 Fillmore, CA
- Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud—Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
*Indictments and complaints are not evidence that the defendant committed the crime charged. All defendants are presumed innocent until the United States meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.