CA: Three family members in ID theft credit card ‘bust-out’ sentenced

While many of us were getting ready for Thanksgiving, three members of a Los Angeles family who operated a credit card “bust-out” scheme in the neighborhoods surrounding the Little Armenia section of Los Angeles were sentenced to up to eight years in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges.

Arutyun Sarkisyan, 27, of the Silverlake section of Los Angeles, the leader of an identity theft ring with co-schemers in the United States and Russia, was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison. Sarkisyan pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of bank fraud in a scheme that netted just over a quarter-million dollars.

Sarkisyan’s brother, Ara Sarkisyan, 23, of Silverlake, received a sentence of 41 months imprisonment, and Sarkisyan’s mother, Asmik Sarkisyan, 48, of Silverlake, received a sentence of 15 months imprisonment.

All three defendants were sentenced November 23 by United States District Judge Andrew Guilford, who also ordered them to pay a total of $263,291 in restitution to Chase Bank. During the nearly four-hour sentencing hearing, Judge Guilford repeatedly referenced the seriousness of bank fraud offenses and of the injuries suffered by their victims of identity theft.

In a 46-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles in December 2008, the three Sarkisyans and four others were charged with a scheme to defraud Chase Bank USA. According to the indictment and other court documents, members of the conspiracy bilked Chase Bank by posing as Chase Bank credit card account holders and, using personal identification information belonging to the legitimate account holders, requesting that an authorized user be added to victims’ credit card accounts. Members of the conspiracy would then ask Chase Bank to issue an additional credit card in the name or alias of one of the defendants or another co-schemer. After fraudulently obtaining a credit card, members of the scheme would “bust out” the credit card by obtaining cash advances at banks and casinos, or by purchasing jewelry and other high-end merchandise at department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue.

Arutyun Sarkisyan and Ara Sarkisyan have been in custody since last November. Judge Guilford remanded Asmik Sarkisyan into custody following the pronouncement of her sentence.

Two other defendants in this case were sentenced by Judge Guilford earlier this year. Arutyun Sarkisyan’s cousin, Parunak Tukmanyan, 27, and Alexandr Moshkov, 21, both of Los Angeles, were sentenced to 24 and 18 months in prison, respectively.

There are two fugitives in this case. Giyosiddin Nizomov, 30, and Bunyod Sharipov, 23, both of Los Angeles, were indicted in the scheme and have been fugitives for over one year. Authorities believe they have fled to Tajikistan.

The case against Arutyun Sarkisyan and his six co-defendants is one of 10 related indictments that charge a total of 16 defendants. Other defendants charged separately with various fraud offenses include Arutyun Sarkisyan’s mother-in-law, his sister’s father-in-law, and other relatives and friends.

The investigation of this case was conducted by the Identity Theft and Economic Crime (ITEC) Task Force which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. ITEC was established in 2004 in response to increased complaints of identity theft in Southern California. Since its inception, the ITEC Task Force has arrested over 261 suspects, executed nearly 530 search warrants, and seized more than $2.4 million in assets.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office

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