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Three men admit to stealing from ATMs & gas pumps, staging a fake car accident in nationwide fraud, money laundering scheme

Potential Victims Urged to Contact Justice Department

SAN DIEGO – Three more men pleaded guilty today to engaging in a years-long, nation-wide fraud conspiracy that stole victims’ financial information from ATMs and gas pumps in San Diego and across the country, and then used the stolen information to make fake credit and debit cards. All told, six defendants have now admitted to participating in that conspiracy, and in a related money laundering conspiracy, that netted over a million dollars in ill-gotten gains.

In sentencing one of the coconspirators on April 21, 2021, the Honorable Michael M. Anello observed that the conspiracy constituted “a very, very serious and longstanding criminal enterprise.”

One defendant, Arsen Galstyan, pleaded guilty to engaging a conspiracy to commit access device fraud: essentially, using fake debit and credit cards. The remaining two defendants—brothers Davit and Vahram Simonyan—admitted to participating in a money laundering conspiracy that laundered the proceeds of access device fraud and other crimes.

In their plea agreements, the defendants admitted that their scheme inflicted actual and intended losses of at least $1.2 million. The Simonyan brothers each admitted to obtaining over $642,000 in stolen money over the course of the conspiracy, which stretched from 2017 to 2020. They also acknowledged structuring their withdrawals from the banks to avoid bank reporting requirements. For example, in one month alone, the Simonyan brothers allegedly withdrew $91,500 in cash from a single bank account. Davit Simonyan admitted that he and a co-conspirator possessed 75 fake debit and credit cards on just a single day in 2018.

Davit Simonyan also staged a phony car accident in order to commit insurance fraud, according to his plea agreement. He planned an accident involving cars insured by two of his codefendants, including Arsen Galstyan, who also pleaded guilty today. Then Simonyan had one of the damaged vehicles repaired at a collision shop owned by an unindicted co-conspirator who kicked back thousands of dollars in payment from the insurance company to Simonyan and his brother as part of their money laundering scheme. Davit Simonyan admitted that by staging a car accident, his conduct involved the reckless risk of a serious bodily injury.

The indictment alleges that the coconspirators worked together to steal unwitting victims’ credit and debit card information by using skimming devices installed in common points of sale such as gas pumps and ATMs. With the stolen information in hand, the conspirators made a host of unauthorized cards that they then used to buy postal money orders and make withdrawals from victims’ accounts.

“People should be able to use a gas pump or an ATM without fear that a criminal will steal their identities and their savings,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This office will ensure that identity thieves, fraudsters and money launderers are held accountable for victimizing our community.” Grossman commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Pilchak and the federal agents who diligently pursued this matter.

“Members of the public should remain vigilant as skimming crimes continue to be prevalent,” said Brian Lewin, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service San Diego field office. “The Secret Service is proud to work with our law enforcement and public safety partners to prevent future crimes like this.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection remains unwavering in its mission to arrest those who intend to utilize the Postal Service as part of a criminal enterprise,” noted Carroll Harris, Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division. “The customers of the Postal Service can be assured the Post Office still remains a safe and secure location to conduct business.”

On April 21, 2021, co-defendant Arsen Minasyan was sentenced by the Honorable Michael M. Anello to 37 months in custody. He was ordered to forfeit $75,145.90 and to pay restitution to victims in the amount of $109,834.14.

The remaining defendant, Gor Plavchyan, is scheduled to be in court next for a change of plea on Friday, August 6, 2021.

The defendants who pleaded guilty today will appear for sentencing on November 3, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello.

Anyone who believes that they may be a victim of this offense can visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s large case website for more information: www.justice.gov/largecases.

DEFENDANTS  Age  Case Number 20cr314-MMA

1. Davit Simonyan       30       Residence: Glendale, California
2. Vahram Simonyan   34       Residence: Glendale, California
3. Arsen Minasyan      34       Residence: Terminal Island FCI
4. Gor Plavchyan         26      Residence: Winnetka, California
5. Arsen Galstyan       40       Residence: Glendale, California
6. Mukuch Mkrtchyan 32       Residence: Fair Oaks, California
7. Smbat Shahinyan    41       Residence: Glendale, California

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h) (Defendants 1 through 3 only)
Maximum Penalty: twenty years in prison; fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved

Conspiracy to Possess Fifteen or More Unauthorized Access Devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(b)(2), 1029(a)(3), and 1029(c)(1)(A)(i) (Defendants 1 and 3–7 only)
Maximum Penalty: five years in prison; fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES
United States Secret Service
U.S. Postal Inspection Service

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty