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Prison Theft Ring Robs Elderly by Bribing OC Bank Workers

Two prisoners were sentenced to 25 years today for masterminding an identity theft scheme to steal $8 million from hundreds of victims by bribing OC bank employees for customer data.

Two men behind a massive $8 million identity-theft conspiracy hatched and operated from a prison to bribe employees at Orange County banks for information on more than 500 people were sentenced today to 25 years in federal prison.

Angus Brown, also known as “Homicide,” 36, and Arman Sharopetrosian, also known as “Horse,” 33, were both in a California state prison when they used bank information to defraud hundreds of elderly victims in Orange and neighboring counties, according to prosecutors.

At today’s sentencing, United States District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana called the crime the most sophisticated fraud schemes he had ever seen, according to the Department of Justice.

Brown and Sharopetrosian were the lead defendants in one of two federal indictments that targeted the Armenian Power gang two years ago. According to the fraud indictment issued by a grand jury in Orange County, members of Armenian Power worked with members of African-American street gangs and bribed bank insiders at Bank of America, Chase Bank, Wells Fargo and Citibank locations in Orange County.

According to court documents and the evidence presented at Sharopetrosian’s trial last spring, Sharopetrosian and Brown organized a scheme that misappropriated bank information from primarily elderly victims, then forged victims’ signatures and deposited high-dollar checks into accounts set up by members of the conspiracy.

As a result of that investigation, authorities were able to obtain a wiretap on cellphones smuggled into Avenal State Prison for Sharopetrosian, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph McNally.

The identity theft scheme victimized residents in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, as well as Arizona, Texas and Nevada, McNally said.

The indictment named 20 defendants, 15 of whom pleaded guilty, including Brown.

Sharopetrosian and Brown met as cellmates in the prison during the summer of 2009. The two had a background in identity theft so they teamed up, according to McNally, who said the two started with a check-ordering scheme.

Bank employees paid low salaries were bribed to turn over personal information of customers so the crooks could bypass the first line of security by answering questions such as a mother's maiden name, McNally said.

Others were hired to intercept the checks, usually mailed overnight, from mailboxes before customers could retrieve them, McNally said.

Sharopetrosian got the phones smuggled into the prison while Brown called banks to order the checks, McNally said. Sharopetrosian even got his elderly mother involved in the scheme by forging checks, according to the prosecutor.

The checks would be deposited in accounts established in the names of other Armenians who moved back to Armenia from the U.S., so if something went wrong it would be difficult to trace the money to the culprits, McNally said.

The conspiracy even involved forwarding phone calls from unsuspecting victims so the thieves could intercept any calls from the bank about large checks, he said.

Sharopetrosian also faces a racketeering indictment by a Los Angeles federal grand jury and is awaiting trial, Mrozek said.

Many of the other co-defendants in the identity theft conspiracy await sentencing, Mrozek said.

 - City News Service contributed to this report.

Shirley November 29, 2012 at 04:48 AM
What does this have to do with Laguna Niguel & why is it appearing here?
Andromeda November 29, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Whatever happened to those Wall Street bankster crooks who knowingly sold trillions in poisoned toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsupecting investors and shorted them as quick as they left their back doors and crashed the entire economy costing us millions of middle class jobs and trillions in bailouts??? Oh, I forgot. They were Friends of Obama and not only got get out of jail free passes, but were rewarded with trillions in taxpayer bailouts and tax breaks!!! My oh my. Like they say. The best way to rob a bank is to own one.
M November 29, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Among the defendants do they include those "bribed" bank employees? Sounds like our money is not safe at these banks Bank of America, Chase Bank, Wells Fargo and Citibank.
Joker Joe November 29, 2012 at 03:11 PM
These guys should get a "get out of jail free card". Anyone that smart should work for the Obama administration as SEC chief adviser!! Someone in the jail system that let cell phones into the prison should get to occupy a cell for at least 3 years. What will happen is NOTHING.
Andromeda November 29, 2012 at 04:47 PM
William. the laws only apply to the 'little people' today. Those with connections - even low level government workers - often get a pass from what others would have their feet held to the fire for. I could list dozens of examples. You're familiar with Jon Corzine, former NJ Gov and former CEO of scandal ridden MF Global, right? (google 'MF Global financial scandal'). I would not be the least surprised to see Obama appoint him to a high-level government financial job - possibly even a cabinet job. Corzine was one of his chief campaign fund raisers. And much of Obama's money came from the Too Big To Fails that crashed our economy. So there ya go. In fact, I wouldn't be the least surprised to see Obama give Bernie Madoff a pardon when his 2nd term ends. That is, if Madoff doesn't die in prison first. But don't you write a bad check for $200. You'll have hell to pay!!! :^)
Joker Joe November 29, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Andromeda Your comment is spot on. As I am into helping people with their investments so I follow the financials and am familiar with MF and the missing billions. Mr. C says he has no idea where the money is and the BO administration says o.k. don't worry about it.... Bo was thinking about putting him into Bernanke's spot before this.
David Levine November 29, 2012 at 06:58 PM
The crooks running the banks got the bail-out and pass under the Bush administration. In fact, the Republicans in Congress are working hard to loosen the bank laws that were written to prevent a repeat of the bank fiasco.
Andromeda November 29, 2012 at 07:06 PM
David, Obama has given trillions to the banksters in form of direct bail-outs and quantitative easing (monies that are deposited directly into the Too Big To Fails). To claim that Obama is not a bootlicker for the big bankers is totally naive. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were amongst his biggest campaign donors. In fact, in 2008 Goldman was his largest donor - just under a million dollars. Goldman gave more to Obama than any other politicians (dem or republican) by leaps and bounds. Check the records for yourself if you doubt me. Obama just picked up where Bush left off. Everyone in the know understands this.
Joker Joe November 29, 2012 at 07:06 PM
David That is why I did not vote for Bush in the last election.... Now tell me what Obama has done to put these guys in jail?
Andromeda November 29, 2012 at 07:25 PM
As a matter of fact, Obama forgave many many $billions$ in taxes owed by one Too Big To Fail - on profits made based on zero interest loans provided to the TBTF compliments to the taxpayers a couple years previous. Don't believe me? Google it. Another TBTF was caught laundering over $300B in drug cartel narcotic proceeds and you know what Obama did? Fined them about 20% of the profits it made off the laundering scam and declined to prosecute any of it's officers criminally. heh. Don't believe me? Google it. Obama is a Bush clone. Dems and Pubs - all cut from the same cloth. Until one understands that he is lost.
rj November 29, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Why does the name Ogandzhanyan just pop up half way through the article without any previous reference? I guess we are just suppossed to know who that is
Dave December 03, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Friends of Obama? My your timeline's a tad off. The bailouts started under Bush's Sec of Treasury and Goldman Sachs' big shot Hank Paulson. Your attempt to rewrite history is both an unfortunate and a very common technique- the "Big Lie" commonly used by the right wing to obscure the truth and paint their opponents as the culprit, Sorry, we remember who's to blame.
Dave December 03, 2012 at 05:34 PM
"Quantitative Easing" has been done by the Federal Reserve, a private corporation the President has no control over. Gee it seems these "financial experts" here don't know the basics of the monetary system. Show us where Obama has opened the US Treasury to these skunks. G'head.
Lil-Marty December 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Andromedia, what do you mean the laws only apply to "little people today"? Us midgets already have enough problems. Here's one, I can't go on most rides at the fair! Lil Marty Leisure World

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