Florists plead not guilty to identity theft charges

A Glendale florist and his wife pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple charges for allegedly stealing bank information from their customers to buy Visa gift cards at Target stores that they later redeemed at their own store, officials said.

Vahik Ghookasian and his wife, Hilda, both 60, face 14 felony counts of identity theft for allegedly buying $1,900 in Visa gift cards at Target stores in Glendale and Burbank with account information from two Glendale residents who patronized Daisy Florist, on the 1400 block of Glenoaks Boulevard, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court criminal complaint.

The couple is being held in lieu of $700,000 bail, police officials said. They are expected to appear Wednesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Glendale for a bail bond hearing.

Authorities refrained from pursuing charges against the couple’s son, Peter Ghookasian — who allegedly had dozens of re-encoded gift cards attached to notes with a handwritten three-digit PIN number in his car — because they planned to conduct a follow up investigation, Glendale Police Det. Ralph Garcia said.

The couple and their son were arrested Thursday at their hillside home on the 1600 block of Ridgeview Drive after detectives served a search warrant and found re-encoded cards scattered throughout their home.

Police also seized blank credit cards, computers, hard drives, embossing and printing equipment inside their home. Detectives also served a search warrant at the flower shop, where they found a credit card skimming device, police said.

The couple allegedly recorded customer bank account information when they swiped their cards for a purchase. Police said the couple re-encoded the information onto other cards, which they used to buy the Visa gift cards. Prosecutors allege the Ghookasians later “purchased” items at their flower shop in exchange for the money.

The fraudulent charges allegedly occurred between Oct. 6 to 22.

“The Glendale Police Department won’t tolerate attacks on the wallets and bank accounts of its citizens,” Garcia said.

The alleged fraud could be extensive due to the couple’s access to customer information, he added.

Anyone with information on the case may call Garcia at (818) 548-3101.

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