Four Defendants Charged in Credit Card Skimming Scheme in Which Stolen Account Information Was Used to Purchase Large Amounts of Fuel for Resale
|FBI Los Angeles August 17, 2012|
Four men were arrested on Thursday and Friday for their roles in an identity theft scheme involving the theft of credit card numbers used to fraudulently purchase fuel at gas stations, announced Timothy Delaney, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, and André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney for Los Angeles. The announcement was made on behalf of agents and federally deputized state law enforcement officers from the following agencies: Burbank Police Department, Glendale Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI.
Three of the following four defendants were arrested on Thursday by members of the task force, without incident. The fourth defendant, Vardan Mkryan, was arrested this morning after surrendering to members of the task force. The defendants were named in two criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on August 15 which charges them with access device fraud conspiracy, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2). The defendants named in the complaints are:
- Vardan Mkryan, 42, Toluca Lake
- Vahe Harutunyun, 28, North Hollywood
- Khachik Karabadzhakyan, 58, Oxnard
- Sedrak Karabadzhakyan, 24, Oxnard
Following a long-term investigation by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force that resulted in the indictment of dozens of members or associates of the “Armenian Power” criminal enterprise, task force members developed information indicating that a resident of Toluca Lake, Vardan Mkryan, was involved in a variety of criminal activities, according to the complaint. Mkryan managed several gas stations in the Los Angeles area.
According to the allegations contained in the complaint, during the investigation, task force members observed the defendants on various occasions purchasing fuel at several gas stations in Los Angeles using credit card account numbers later determined to have been used fraudulently. The gas was pumped into large vans or utility trucks outfitted with storage tanks that could hold hundreds of gallons of fuel. The fuel was then consolidated into a fuel tanker in order to be sold, distributed, or otherwise used by the defendants in order to obtain criminal proceeds and to conceal the proceeds of their criminal activity, according to the complaint. The scheme involved identity theft against 50 victims and losses of over $50,000.
Fourteen federal search warrants were executed throughout the day on Thursday by task force members seeking evidence related to the fraud schemes in support of this continuing investigation.
The defendants had their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
If convicted of the charges in the complaint the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
This case is a continuing investigation by the EOCTF, which is comprised of agents with the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and federally deputized state law enforcement officers from local agencies, including the Glendale Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Burbank Police Department.
The defendants will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.
FBI: (310) 996-3343
United States Attorney’s Office: (213) 894-0480