LOS ANGELES (CNS) - 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 more than $1.8 million in fraudulently acquired tax refunds obtained by using stolen identities.
Armen Martirosyan, 62, faces up to 30 years in federal prison at sentencing Aug. 24, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
After he was interviewed in connection with the 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 extradited to the U.S. in August 2018, prosecutors said.
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 two dozen fraudulently obtained tax refunds into that account, according to prosecutors, who said Martirosyan signed blank checks from that account, which he then gave to other schemers.
Court papers show 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 the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The bank accounts Martirosyan opened were used to receive and launder more than $1.8 million in stolen tax refund proceeds, according to the government.
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, prosecutors said.
The case is related to an underlying stolen identity refund fraud 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, federal prosecutors said.
About 20 defendants, including ex-Wells Fargo Bank manager Hakop Zakaryan and Glendale lawyer Arthur S. Charchian, have been charged in that scheme, which involved 7,000 fraudulent tax returns that cumulatively sought about $38 million in refunds, prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the federal investigation into the scheme has resulted in a dozen 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.
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