CNN News reported last week, that authorities announced charges against 99 members of a transnational organized crime group in southern California called the ‘Armenian Power’, whose enterprise allegedly collected $20 million through kidnapping, extortion, bank fraud and narcotics trafficking.
The ‘Armenian Power’ has ties to high-level crime figures in Armenia, Russia and Georgia, authorities said.
In all, the crime group is believed to have more than 200 members, authorities said.
The official press-realese wrote: ” The indictments that target the Armenian Power organized crime enterprise provide a window into a group that appears willing to do anything and everything illegal to make a profit,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “These types of criminal organizations—through the use of extortions, kidnappings, and other violent acts—have a demonstrated a willingness to prey upon members of their own community. As we have seen in Los Angeles and elsewhere, these groups also engaged in various fraud schemes that clearly have had a significant impact on financial institutions and their customers who have lost millions of dollars and lost their sense of security through identity theft and credit card fraud.”
Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: “Investigators from nine agencies leveraged their collective expertise to identify the threat posed by members of Armenian Power, a criminal enterprise with over 200 members, bent on generating illicit revenue to expand its power base. While some organized crime groups have been largely suppressed, others, including AP, have managed to grow from a street gang into an international organized crime group, carrying out criminal activity that runs the gamut from bank fraud schemes to extortion to kidnapping, and capable of making every citizen of the community a potential victim.”
The second federal indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Orange County and charges 20 defendants, two of whom are also charged in the racketeering indictment. Similar to the some of the schemes alleged in the racketeering indictment, the Orange County case alleges that AP members engaged in a bank fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims. Investigators found that members of the Armenian Power organization were working in conjunction with members of African-American street gangs and bribed bank insiders to gather information that allowed them to take over bank accounts and cause losses of at least $10 million.
In addition to the federal indictments, the Los Angeles County District Attorney has charged 11 defendants in seven cases filed in superior court, which means that a total of 99 members and associates of Armenian Power have been charged.
In separate actions brought by federal authorities in Miami and Denver, and announced along with the Los Angeles indictments by the Department of Justice, more than a dozen additional defendants, some of whom are linked to Armenian Power, were charged with extortion and fraud offenses”.
Armenian Power members, in collaboration with a local African-American gang, bribed insiders at banks in Orange County to gather information that allowed them to take over bank accounts.
In another scheme, the organization’s members, according to federal indictments unsealed on Wednesday, installed credit card “skimming” devices at cash registers in 99 Cents Only stores across Southern California that they used to steal information from hundreds of customers and create counterfeit credit and debit cards.