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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

California Man Sentenced to Prison for Perpetrating Trademark Scam



A California man was sentenced to prison today for his role as the mastermind of a $1.66 million mass mailing scam aimed at trademark holders.  The former manager of a Wells Fargo branch in Glendale, California, and his associate were also sentenced to prison today for their roles in laundering the scam’s proceeds.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown of the Central District of California, Inspector in Charge Nichole Cooper of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Los Angeles Division and Special Agent in Charge Damon Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.  The sentences were issued by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson.

Artashes Darbinyan, 37, of Glendale, was sentenced to 96 months in prison and was ordered to pay $1,557,979 in restitution.  Orbel Hakobyan, 42, of Glendale, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and was ordered to pay $1,218,024 in restitution.  Albert Yagubyan, 37, of Burbank, California, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay $1,048,069 in restitution.  In December 2016, Darbinyan pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and Hakobyan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.  Following a jury trial in March 2017, Yagubyan was convicted of one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, four counts of concealment money laundering and one count of false bank entries.

As part of his guilty plea, Darbinyan admitted that from September 2013 to September 2015 he ran a mass mailing scam under the names Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and Trademark Compliance Office (TCO), which targeted small businesses that had recently applied for trademark protection with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  The scam involved fraudulent offers of a service in which TCC and TCO promised to monitor an applicant’s trademark for infringing marks and to register the trademark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which offers a real service that screens imports for possibly infringing trademarks.  The offers were made via mail solicitations and claimed the services would be provided for $385.  Darbinyan never monitored or registered, nor ever intended to monitor or register, any of the trademarks with CBP for the customers who paid the fee, he admitted.

Darbinyan also admitted to concealing his control over the scam through elaborate measures in which he illegally used the identities of other people to open accounts at virtual office centers in the Washington, D.C., area, which received and then forwarded victims’ payments to other virtual office centers in the Los Angeles area.  Using those same illicit identities, Darbinyan then, with co-conspirators’ assistance, opened bank accounts at Wells Fargo through which he laundered the proceeds of the scam.  To further avoid detection, Darbinyan paid virtual office fees with money orders; used bogus email accounts, which he would only log into using prepaid wireless modems; and regularly changed cell phone numbers.

As part of his guilty plea, Hakobyan admitted to helping launder the proceeds of the trademark scam.  Specifically, Hakobyan deposited victims’ checks into bank accounts at Wells Fargo that had been opened under false names.  Hakobyan misrepresented his identity to withdraw funds from the accounts at Wells Fargo in the form of cash and cashier’s checks, which he then used to purchase gold, he admitted.  In total, he admitted to helping launder approximately $1.29 million of the scam’s proceeds.

According to evidence presented at Yagubyan’s trial, from June 27, 2014 to Sept. 18, 2015, Yagubyan, in his role as manager of a large Wells Fargo branch in Glendale, helped launder victims checks paid to the TCC and TCO.  Yagubyan laundered the illegal funds by instructing subordinates at the bank to open bogus bank accounts, into which the illicit proceeds of the TCC and TCO scam were deposited, and to process fraudulent withdrawals, wire transfers and cashier’s checks for co-conspirators Darbinyan and Hakobyan, the evidence showed.  The cashier’s checks and wire transfers were made out to gold dealers, turning the victims’ checks into cash and gold that the co-conspirators could spend without being traced back to their fraud scheme.  The bank accounts were opened using the identities of individuals from Eastern Europe who were not in the U.S. at the time the accounts were opened.  The evidence at trial further showed that Darbinyan paid Yagubyan a percentage of the laundered proceeds and that Yagubyan, in turn, made payments and promises of promotion to subordinates to induce them to conduct the fraudulent transactions.

In total, according to Darbinyan’s guilty plea and the evidence presented at trial, the trademark scam defrauded approximately 4,446 victims of $1.66 million.

USPIS and IRS-CI investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys William E. Johnston and Alison L. Anderson of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Investigation Determines Windsor Mill Fire was Intentionally Set



$10,000 reward for information offered

DENVER – After a week of investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue and Windsor Police Department have concluded the Windsor Mill fire was intentionally set.

ATF’s Denver Field Division is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect or suspects responsible for the Aug. 6 fire at 301 Main Street in Windsor, Colorado.

The NRT, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue and Windsor Police Department started investigating the scene, Aug. 9. The team spent the past several days interviewing witnesses, reviewing photos and videos, analyzing debris and reconstructing the scene. Their objective was to determine origin and cause of the blaze.

“This fire did not need to happen. Someone caused it, so someone out there knows what took place that night. We hope they will come forward,” said Denver Field Division Special Agent in Charge Debora Livingston.

“Regardless of the hardships, be they widespread natural disasters or devastating personal tragedies, our community always stands up and demonstrates to the world what the power of community looks like. Right now, we in Public Safety need to draw upon this community power to not only find whoever is responsible for this devastating fire, but to stand up in support of the recovery process. We will emerge stronger than ever,” said Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Chief Herb Brady.

“The magnitude and destruction caused by this fire has had an impact on many people. Investigators will continue working this incident,” said Windsor Police Chief Rick Klimek. “We appreciate the efforts of not only the ATF and the National Response Team but all those that have been involved with this investigation. Windsor Severance Fire Rescue were invaluable during this event.”

Anyone with information on the fire is encouraged to call Windsor PD investigators Sgt. Shainline or Detective Hogsett at 970-674-6400; Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477); or email windsormilltips@wsfr.us (link sends e-mail). People can also submit a tip through ATF’s new “reportit” app available at www.reportit.com (link is external) and at Google Play and the Apple App Store. All tips to the app are confidential and can be anonymous.

The NRT concluded their scene work in Windsor, Aug. 12. The concentrated effort allowed investigators to quickly and thoroughly examine the scene and get the investigation into a manageable position for local investigators to continue. The Windsor Police Department and Windsor Severance Fire Rescue will continue with the investigation with the assistance of the local ATF office.

ATF is the only federal agency with the responsibility and ability to investigate fires and crimes of arson. Much of its expertise and state-of-the-art equipment is assigned to the National Response Team, which deploys around the country and the world to help investigate large-scale and complex fire and explosives scenes at the request of local agencies. More information on NRT can be found at https://www.atf.gov/explosives/national-response-team.

ATF Announces Joint Reward for Information Leading to Arson Suspect



PHILADELPHIA – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Philadelphia Field Division, the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 and the Philadelphia Firefighter’s and Paramedic’s Union, Local 22 have partnered and announced a combined reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the attempted arson of several city-owned and privately owned vehicles, which were parked at an underground parking garage, located at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue in Philadelphia.

On August 9, 2017, at approximately 5:30 a.m., members from the ATF Philadelphia Arson Task Force responded to the Philadelphia Police Department’s 12th District and Philadelphia Fire Engine 40 Firehouse, for the report of an attempted arson at an underground parking garage, located directly below the Police District and Firehouse. Task Force members determined that ignitable liquids from four plastic containers had been deliberately poured throughout the parking lot and around a number of both city and privately owned vehicles with the intention of setting them ablaze.  Attempts to ignite the flammable liquids were unsuccessful and no injuries were reported.

The ATF Arson Task Force, Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office are working jointly to identify the individual(s) responsible.

“This attempted arson of these vehicles located underneath a city-owned building is a serious and dangerous act that potentially threatened the safety of the employees of that building.  ATF and our partners from the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments will use every available resource to identify and apprehend this perpetrator,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Sam Rabadi. “We are asking the public to provide any information that would lead investigators to the person responsible for this attempted arson.”

A copy of the video taken from a surveillance camera located in the area of the entrance to the parking garage shows an image of an unidentified male approaching the garage at approximately 4:17 a.m. A short time after, the unidentified male is seen approaching the garage, pushing a baby stroller wearing a sheet over his head, which drops for a brief second (see pictures below).  Please visit the Philadelphia Police Departments YouTube channel to view the video