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Former Wells Fargo branch manager accused of helping fraudsters launder $1.29 million

A former Wells Fargo branch manager from Burbank was arrested for allegedly allowing two Glendale men to launder $1.29 million in fraud proceeds through the bank over the course of two years, federal officials said this week.

Albert Yagubyan, 36, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four counts of concealment money laundering, along with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, false bank entries and witness tampering, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Yagubyan, who managed a Wells Fargo branch located at 535 N. Brand Blvd. in Glendale until October 2015, reportedly allowed Artashes Darbinyan, 36, and Orbel Hakobyan, 41, to open bogus bank accounts to launder proceeds from a mass mailing scam targeting U.S. trademark holders.

In exchange, Yagubyan allegedly pocketed a cut of the earnings.

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In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said Yagubyan “allegedly used his position of trust at a large financial institution to further a scheme that bilked trademark holders.”

The scam stretches back to September 2013, when Darbinyan, through mailers formatted to look like official invoices from bogus companies called the Trademark Compliance Office and the Trademark Compliance Center, offered trademark registration and monitoring services to trademark holders who recently registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, records show.

Once a trademark is registered, the mark, along with the assigned serial number, the holder’s name and the holder’s address are publicly available online.

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For a $385 fee, the mailers offered to monitor trademarks for possible infringement and send regular reports to the holder, court records show. Envelopes pre-addressed to Darbinyan’s bogus companies were included in the mailer.

But officials said Darbinyan never intended to provide the promised services.

According to court records, Darbinyan used other people’s identities to open bogus accounts, in which he and Hakobyan deposited or cashed checks sent by the trademark holders. Some of the proceeds were reportedly used to purchase gold.

Yagubyan reportedly told one bank employee to open an account for Darbinyan with someone else’s name, and others to approve the pair’s withdrawals from accounts for which they weren’t signatories. The witness tampering charge stems from Yagubyan allegedly later telling a bank employee to lie to federal investigators.

To hide his role in the scheme, Darbinyan regularly changed phone numbers, used multiple email addresses, and set up websites and phone lines for the bogus companies, records show.

Both Darbinyan and Hakobyan were previously charged in the scam.

A trial in the case was scheduled for September, officials said.

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Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @atchek


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