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Armenian gang fraud cost victims at least $20 million, authorities say [Updated]

At least 74 reputed members of the Armenian Power organized crime gang were charged Wednesday in a fraud scheme that cost Southern California victims at least $20 million, law enforcement officials said.

Click to read the indictment Authorities said members of Armenian Power, or AP, face criminal charges with potential sentences ranging from a few years to life in prison.

DOCUMENTS: Read the indictment

A total of 99 members have been charged in two federal indictments and by the Los Angeles County district attorney with crimes including racketeering, extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking and identity theft.

Some of the defendants are accused of secretly installing sophisticated skimming devices that allowed them to steal customer account information at a dozen 99-Cent Only stores across the region, according to a 212-page federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Armenian Power members allegedly caused more than $2 million in losses when they used the skimmed information to create counterfeit debit and credit cards, the indictment alleges.

In addition, authorities allege Armenian Power worked in conjunction with African American street gangs to gather information that allowed them to take over bank accounts, often of older victims, that led to financial losses of $10 million.

Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said members of the gang used violence to maintain their fraudulent activities.

[Updated at 1:53 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Birotte as an assistant U.S. attorney]

“The common denominator among these defendants and their criminal enterprises is their willingness to commit any crime for profit and to use any means of violence and intimidation to further their goals,” Birotte said.

Birotte cited the kidnapping of a Glendale businessman who was held for $500,000 ransom and threatened with death as an example of the lengths the gang would go to to strike fear in the community.

The culmination of a two-year investigation, Operation Power Outage involved nearly 1,000 officers focused primarily on suspects who live in heavily Armenian neighborhoods in Burbank, Glendale and East Hollywood, but authorities said arrests and indictments also were made in other parts of the country, including Denver and Miami.

The syndicate had global reach, according to law enforcement officials. The indictment described a transnational network that tied Armenian Power to the Mexican Mafia and organized crime gangs in the former Soviet-bloc regions, including Armenia, Georgia and Russia.

Participating law enforcement agencies included the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Secret Service, Immigration Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' office of the inspector general. Also participating was the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles police departments.

The bulk of the arrests and search warrants were served without any major incidents. But officials stressed they continued to search for about 24 suspects.

Armenian Power is a small but virulent gang that took root among Armenian immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 1990s, authorities said. The gang has about 200 members.

Law enforcement officials described Armenian Power as having an "extensive portfolio" that combined ruthlessness with opportunism, focusing on white-collar crime that included identity theft crimes such as credit-card skimming.

-- Kate Linthicum and Andrew Blankstein

 
Comments () | Archives (25)

I agree that these criminals should be held accountable for the crimes they commited. I don't agree with haters that say all Armenian's commit fraud or should be deported as a majority probably 98% of Armenian's are hard working, tax paying good citizens which should not be steriotyped. Yes we have some bad apples, but mostly good people that migrated to this great county to live a better life. Yes we drive nice cars, live in nice homes, and tend to overspend but that is not a crime. Bravo to law enforcement for a good job, but all the hate on Armenian's is uncalled for and needs to stop.

Proud Armenian

Glendale!

"...skimming devices that allowed them to steal customer account information at a dozen 99-Cent Only stores across the region...." ha ha...serves 'em right; you get what you pray for!

Why not go after murderers instead?

The article said "over 1,o00 officers" were involved in the investigation for a $10-20 million ring. On average, each officer gets paid $100,000 per year. The investigation took 2 years (according to the article). This cost taxpayers $100,000,000 (yes $100 million) per year to pay these officers to handle a case that is worth roughly 1% of their combined pay. For 2 years, that's almost $200 million spent on officer pay to investigate this crime.....makes no sense....WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONIES!!!! Gov't has gotten too large, too many gov't employees making too much money doing nothing.

This makes absolutely no business sense. Looks like there must have been other political motives behind this bust.

What ?? no comments ??!!

1000 officers? really.

We have long believed that the marijuana dispensaries in our neighborhood are controlled by the Armenian Mafia. Now we have proof - the federal indictment includes marijuana trafficking as one of its counts. It is ridiculous how the so-called "medical marijuana clinics" have been taken over by violent organized crime operations. And that is why they need to be shut down....

How many of you have ever seen the many water stores in Glendale, how about all those flower shops, the catering companies...what about any other stores you see...too many off? In a economy that is sinking how many of you have wondered whats the deal. Have any of you ever gone into any of these stores, did you get the odd feeling business was not needed or wanted...It would take a blind man to not notice and figure this out as MONEY LAUNDERING..so why has the Glendale PD not noticed or done anything about...heck you guys at the times how about you take this on as something?

Well at least they're caught now. Things like this often go undetected. Armenians like this give a bad name for the other ones who live clean, educated, respectable lives.

Look into Medicare, Medi-cal, food stamp, section 8 and SSI fraud with this group.

This morning the FBI raided the home to an Armenian home on the 400 block of Lincoln Ave in Montbello. They have Range Rovers ,BMW's and Benzs parked there and the entire neighborhood knew that guy was involved with credit card fraud. Was he part of theis operation. I saw the FBI agents raiding his home this morning and hanging out there all morning.

People like that give the rest of us Armenians a bad name

Gangs are like little governments within a government they both steal,cheat,and cover each others rear end .

you mean they cost the banks atleast 20 million not the people lol

llright

No mercy please. These are the worst of crimes, not committed in a moment of passion or driven by a sick impulse, but crimes well thought out. They deserve maximum sentences.

It is ok as long thay are not dangeres to the poblic

FBI should also investigate how much of this stolen money was contributed to the members of congress who are members of the Congressional Armenian Caucaus.

Seems with the wide ranging financial disturbance that this has caused in these tough economic times, there should be charges added to the criminal charges relating to crimes against the security of the country.
With the wide ranging infiltration of our economic system, it has to have affected a large segment of local economy.
Hopefully the convicted have their possessions confiscated to pay for their jail time whether they were stolen or not.

This is not just an Armenian operation, if you racist people actually use your basic English skills you would have read that African American gangs and the Mexican Mafia were also involved. Armenians like everyone else besides the Indians have immigrated here at one time in history, so consider where you have come from and what stereotypes are said about your people. So it's not right to stereotype a group of people when a small percentage of that group break the law. Another thing that should be considered is that in America today no one can make an honest living and survive in his country. Everyone does and would do something wrong to feed or protect their family, even small things like lying on your taxes. No average person can have that "American Dream" honestly. Even doctors over bill the insurance companies, and business owners hide their assets. Don't blame the people , blame the government who would rather tax it's middle class and lower class until their bank account empties but would still cutdown on schools that are the only hope that children have to become successful in life. Again this isn't a single ethnic group that is the problem it's the system that leads people to do anything necessary to survive.

Ah! Nothing like the beauty of diversity and multiculturalism to enrich us all and make us a better, stronger nation.

Thank you Annie jan.
No one bothers to look at corporations that do not pay a dime of tax, or the pharmaceutical companies that charge hundreds of dollars for medicines that cost pennies.
No one cares about the all mighty thieves and CRIMINALS of Great American institutions like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sacks, or the printing machine” Federal Reserve”.
what about the politicians, is it fair when their short terms are done and they can retire with enormous pensions and benefits while we have to work all our lives to support the economy and the government.
United States Of America was and is the most unwelcoming country, where signs like “NO colored”, “NO JEWS”, “NO IRISH” are still found in mid states of this alleged great country.
This country was built by slave runners and now by criminals.
And when few Armenians and Mexicans, or blacks, commit petty crimes, ignorant few filled with jealousy and prejudice come out stereotyping the hardworking Mexicans, Armenians, Jews, Irish, and blacks.
Get a life and save a tree …

What you ALL are lacking to admit is that there is no city, state or country without bad apples in all nationalities. This happens not only by Armenians, but with all of the rest of you all. So stop pinpointing and start smelling the coffee in your own back yard. You hear the news everyday with all the disturbing & depressing activities that's going on like son / daughter has killed their mom...or others having babies under brigdes and abandoning them and on and on. FYI most of the Armenians are hard working and earn their money right and family oriented unlike some out there. And yes, when their earn their $$$ right, they should have nice houses / cars and so on. They shine your city redid the bean bag that it was !

excuse me but armenians arent only a problem you dont need to be rasist ok its not only that PARTICULAR group their are other groups that do such things as fraud murder or etc. so dont be judgemental thank you.

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Deleted comments:

SteveS | February 16, 2011 at 01:13 PM
From Red Gulch | February 16, 2011 at 01:57 PM
roni | February 16, 2011 at 02:19 PM
LMAO@ Appl Pies | February 16, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Geo | February 16, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Ara Turks | February 16, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Al Fredd | February 16, 2011 at 03:44 PM
eddieg | February 16, 2011 at 03:56 PM
BillyJoeBob | February 16, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Daniel | February 16, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Just Me | February 16, 2011 at 04:33 PM
lxseahorse | February 16, 2011 at 04:59 PM
ingatuma | February 16, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Captain Obvious | February 16, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Staffushenziheimer | February 16, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Staffushenziheimer | February 16, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Staffushenziheimer | February 16, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Dr of the Truth | February 16, 2011 at 06:04 PM
sveta | February 16, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Micha R | February 16, 2011 at 06:26 PM
mike Hughes | February 16, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Anie | February 17, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Vahe G | February 18, 2011 at 07:43 PM
mikeg | February 19, 2011 at 07:53 PM


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