Los Angeles-area man pleads guilty to bank fraud for setting up accounts that laundered $1.9 million in falsely obtained tax refunds
LOS ANGELES – A Glendale man pleaded guilty today to a federal fraud charge for opening more than a dozen bank accounts, knowing that they would be used to launder fraudulently obtained tax refunds obtained by filing tax returns under stolen identities.
Armen Martirosyan, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud. After federal agents interviewed him in connection with this case, Martirosyan fled the United States before he was named in a federal grand jury indictment filed in November 2017. He ultimately was arrested in Colombia and was extradited to the United States in August 2018 to face the criminal charges in this case.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI.
HSI attachés in Bogota, IRS Criminal Investigations and Columbian law enforcement provided considerable assistance relating to the capture of Martirosyan. The U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the extradition of Martirosyan.
Martirosyan admitted in his plea agreement that in April 2009 he opened a bank account in his name at a Bank of America branch in Glendale, knowing that it would be used to deposit tax refunds that had been fraudulently obtained using stolen identities. The IRS deposited $189,000 in 24 fraudulently obtained tax refunds into that account. Martirosyan signed blank checks from that account, which he then gave to other schemers.
According to the plea agreement, Martirosyan opened 14 other bank accounts that were similarly used in the scheme. He also admitted to using some of the money in those accounts for personal expenditures, including credit card payments, rent and Amazon.com charges.
According to court records, the bank accounts that Martirosyan had opened were used to receive and launder more than $1,866,000 in stolen tax refund proceeds.
In addition, Martirosyan admitted to filing a false federal income tax return for himself for tax year 2012, which falsely reported that he had worked for a national retailer. The false tax return resulted in a fraudulent refund of $9,900.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter scheduled an August 24 sentencing hearing, at which time Martirosyan will face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
This case is related to an underlying Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) Scheme that involved conspirators who used false identities and fake Republic of Armenia passports to open hundreds of bank accounts used to launder funds fraudulently received from the IRS. Approximately 20 defendants, including ex-Wells Fargo Bank manager Hakop Zakaryan and Glendale lawyer Arthur S. Charchian, have been charged in that scheme, which involved approximately 7,000 fraudulent tax returns that cumulatively sought about $38 million in refunds. The IRS issued about $14 million in fraudulent refunds. The fraudulent tax returns were filed and the bank accounts were opened with personal identifying information that had been stolen from thousands of victims.
The federal investigation into the SIRF scheme has resulted in 12 convictions, and the seizure of at least five residential properties worth millions of dollars, and more than $700,000 from bank accounts. Four defendants remain fugitives from justice, and one defendant is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Santa Ana Branch Office.