Published Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 | 12:13 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 | 4:25 p.m.
Authorities announced today they have charged 10 more people on state and local credit card fraud and identity crimes — in addition to the 15 persons charged with federal crimes — that have resulted in victim losses of more than $1.5 million throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
A total of 25 defendants have been charged in connection with the crimes.
Eight people were arrested in Southern Nevada for numerous local credit card, fraud, forgery and identity theft charges; narcotics charges; weapons violations, including altering the serial number on a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm; burglary and theft, Metro Police said.
Those arrested in Southern Nevada are Ramon Adam, Miguel Ferrer, David Karapetyan, Albert Oganesyan, Rouben Palikyan, Oganes Adetyan, Arthur Oganesyan and Aly Hussan Ahmed.
Garen Ambartsumyan and Arutyun Kulakhchyan were arrested in California for the state and local charges named in Nevada.
As of Tuesday night, authorities arrested 14 of the 15 defendants charged in six indictments alleging federal credit fraud and identity crimes.
The defendants named in the indictments are Alen Torosyan, Tigran Saponjyan, Paulette Vartan, Arytom Matevosyan, Mikayel Akopyan, Gergana Hristova, Gor Krkhyan, Arman Palikyan, Hagob Palikyan, Armen Ambartsumyan, Vakhtang Gasparian, Krystalyn Northwick and Varden Urfalyan. Gasparian is still a fugitive.
Artur Ambartsumyan has been charged in a criminal complaint.
The indictments allege that the defendants were stealing customer credit and debit card information from local businesses and manufacturing counterfeit cards used to obtain hundreds or thousands of dollars from businesses. Authorities have estimated that 1,000 credit and debit cards were compromised.
The federal defendants were arrested in the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas by members of a Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force following a two-year investigation. Brower would not comment on which countries the defendants were from.
The task force was formed more than two years ago in response to the growing presence of Eurasian organized crime in the southwestern U.S., particularly Las Vegas.
Greg Brower, U. S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be looking into the status of each individual.
The defendants used a process called “skimming” where individuals steal the magnetic information placed on the rear of cards using a “wedge." The defendants used this type of skimming equipment at businesses to capture credit and debit card information and personal identification numbers, Brower said. The "wedge" would steal the information from a credit card while it was swiped through a credit card machine for a transaction, he said. Authorities believe the businesses were not involved in the scam, he said.
“These indictment should sent two messages: First, to all of us who use such cards, be very careful…The second message is for those who are committing these crimes. Be warned that the very considerable resources of the FBI, Secret Service and local police departments are increasingly becoming devoting to investigating this type of crime,” Brower said.
Most of the federal defendants were scheduled to appear Tuesday before a U.S. Magistrate judge. Initial appearances will be completed Thursday, according to Brower's office.