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Card-theft suspects plead guilty

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

A task force of U.S., state and local law enforcement agencies is aggressively pursuing perpetrators of consumer financial fraud schemes across the country.

That's one message of the guilty pleas entered March 20 by two men who allegedly used stolen bank account data to steal tens of thousands of dollars in cash via ATMs in Northern California, according to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division.

The suspects, Edward Arakelyan, 21, and Arman Vardanyan, 22, were each charged earlier this month with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The conspiracy and bank fraud charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of an additional two years. Sentencing is scheduled for July 24 in Oakland, Calif.

Arakelyan and Vardanyan said they participated in a scheme to defraud bank customers and financial institutions by obtaining 952 stolen bank cards and traveling to Northern California to use the data to withdraw as much money as they could from ATMs. According to court documents, they possessed two loaded firearms, a GPS device preprogrammed with ATM locations and eight mobile phones, all to further their scheme.

"With the personal information of nearly 1,000 debit card holders in hand, they stuffed their pockets with other people's money," Breuer said in a statement. "This easy cash has now come at a high price."

The stolen debit cards were linked to a 2011 theft of a reported 94,000 debit and credit card account numbers from customers who bought goods at 84 Michaels Stores across the United States.

The prosecution is part of efforts by an interagency task force that is investigating and prosecuting financial crimes to ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate such crimes, combat discrimination in lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims. The task form includes representatives from federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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