Members of California-Based Crime Ring Indicted for Bank Fraud Conspirators Bribed DOL Employee and Used Check Kiting Scheme to Purchase Massive Quantities of Cigarettes
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 17, 2010|
Fourteen members of a criminal conspiracy involving check kiting and cigarette trafficking were indicted late yesterday in the Western District of Washington for a scheme that defrauded banks of more than $1,000,000. The conspiracy utilized a Washington State Department of Licensing employee who provided fraudulent identification documents for the conspirators. Many of the conspirators reside in California, in the greater-Los Angeles area. So far, six of the people indicted have been arrested, one in Washington and five in California.
According to the indictment, KHACHATUR DISHCHYAN, a/k/a “Xcho,” a/k/a “Kris,” directed various members of the scheme to open business bank accounts at Bank of America branches in the Seattle area. The bogus businesses had a variety of names including “International Tobacco Company,” “Art’s Professional Photography,” “Five Stars Wholesale Beauty Supplies,” “B & B Super Store,” “Silian Financial,” “Imperial Metals,” “SM Auto Parts 11,” “Danny’s Catering,” “Sazarov Landscaping Services,” and “Ultimate Projectors.” The conspirators would then artificially inflate the value of those accounts by depositing bad checks, in some cases made out for amounts exceeding $70,000, at Bank of America branches in several different locations, including San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, Texas. Before Bank of America could determine that the checks were worthless, and in many cases almost immediately after the deposits were made, conspirators in California would use debit cards linked to the bank accounts to purchase tens of thousands of dollars of cigarettes.
Between October 14 and today, six members of the conspiracy have been arrested, including Melinda Kay Johnson, the Department of Licensing employee who allegedly accepted bribes to provide fake identification documents that were used in several instances to further the bank fraud scheme. Eight defendants remain at large and are being sought by law enforcement. Those eight include:
KHACHATUR DISHCHYAN, a/k/a “Xcho,” a/k/a “Kris,” 36, of Encino, CA
AKOP GYULASARYAN, a/k/a “Hakop,” a/k/a “Jack,” 34, North Hollywood, CA
GRAYR POGOSOVICH YERIKYAN, 49, of Las Vegas, Nevada
ANDRANIK GYULASARYAN, a/k/a “Ando,” 25, North Hollywood, CA
GEVORG MARTIROSYAN, a/k/a “Gevo,” 22, North Hollywood, CA
ASHOT KHACHATRYAN, 50, Van Nuys, CA
YEREM KORKOTYAN, 49, Fresno, CA
SUSAN VARDANYAN, 31, North Hollywood, CA
These defendants have already made court appearances:
SARKIS DISHCHYAN, a/k/a “Saqo,” 32, Pasadena, CA
MELINDA KAY JOHNSON, 36, Bellevue, Washington
AKOP DANIYELYAN, a/k/a “Danny,” 22, Los Angeles, CA
VITALI HOVHANNISYAN, a/k/a “Viko,” 24, Van Nuys, CA
ARTUR ARAKELYAN, 22, North Hollywood, CA
SARKIS YESAYAN, 22, North Hollywood, CA
Photos of some of the defendants being sought by law enforcement are available from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The lead investigative agencies on the case are the U.S. Secret Service, the King County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Assistance has also been provided by the Washington Department of Licensing, Special Investigations Division; and by the FBI.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Scoville and Kate Vaughan.
For additional information, or to obtain photographs of the fugitive defendants please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.