A member of an Armenian crime ring was sentenced Wednesday to serve 25 years in federal prison for orchestrating an identity theft and bank fraud scheme while in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge David Carter sentenced Arman Sharopetrosian, 33, of Burbank, and his fellow lead co-defendant, Angus Brown, 36, of Los Angeles for organizing a scheme to steal bank information from elderly victims, forging their signatures and depositing checks made out in large amounts to bank accounts created by co-conspirators, according to the U.S. district attorney's office.
Sharopetrosian was ordered to pay $1.56 million in restitution, while Brown was ordered to repay roughly $8 million. The scheme targeted 500 to 1,000 victims, said U.S. Atty. E. Martin Estrada.
The stiff sentencing was largely due to what the court determined was a “sophisticated and egregious scheme,” Estrada said, adding that it was widespread, targeted vulnerable victims and went on for a long time.
The pair had “no intention of ever stopping what they were doing,” he said.
Sharopetrosian, who was also known as “Horse,” was found guilty in March of seven counts of aggravated identity fraud, four counts of bank fraud and one count of bank fraud conspiracy, according to authorities. Brown, who was also known as “Homicide,” pleaded guilty in December to 17 counts of aggravated identity theft and separate counts for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.
In a letter to the judge before being sentenced, Sharopetrosian wrote that heroin ruined his life, according to court documents.
“I can truly say from the foundation to the top I became a completely different person,” he wrote.
Dozens of victims in several states suffered losses of at least $8 million, according to authorities. The banks largely reimbursed the victims for their losses, Estrada said.
There was no indication the pair knew each other before meeting inside Avenal State Prison in California, he added.
Sharopetrosian was serving a 10-year prison sentence for carrying a concealed weapon and shooting an occupied vehicle.
The pair used illegal cellphones smuggled into prison to operate the scheme, in which they bribed bank insiders to acquire the victims' bank account information, Social Security numbers and birth dates, he said.
“From prison, they orchestrated and coordinated everything,” Estrada said.
The scheme names 20 defendants, including Brown and Sharopetrosian, who have been convicted, according to authorities. Some defendants have been sentenced up to 51 months in prison.
Brown and Sharopetrosian were primary defendants in one of two federal indictments aimed at the Armenian Power criminal organization, which was the subject of a massive takedown to dismantle its racketeering operations, including kidnapping, bank fraud, identity theft, extortion and drug trafficking.
Those listed in the federal indictments allegedly defrauded the public of at least $20 million.
Sharopetrosian is also named in the federal racketeering indictment and is awaiting trial in that case.