Glendale resident Armen Martirosyan, 62, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of bank fraud for filing and collecting tax returns under stolen identities.
In his plea agreement, Martirosyan said he began opening bank accounts in April 2009 to deposit tax refunds obtained using stolen identities.
In one such account with a Bank of America branch in Glendale, the IRS deposited 24 ill-gotten tax refunds amounting to $189,000. Martirosyan said he opened a total of 15 bank accounts for this purpose. According to court records, the bank accounts were used to receive and launder a total of $1.87 million in stolen tax refunds.
Martirosyan admitted in his plea agreement to using the money in those accounts for personal credit card payments, rent and other expenditures.
He was officially named in a federal grand jury indictment in November 2017, but had fled to Colombia. He ultimately was arrested there, and extradited to the United States in August 2018 to face his criminal charges.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled in August. He faces a maximum of 30 years in federal prison.
The Department of Justice believes Martirosyan’s case is related to a larger Stolen Identity Refund Fraud scheme, or SIRF, involving a group of conspirators who used fake identities and fake Republic of Armenia passports to open bank accounts to launder about $14 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Around 20 defendants have been charged, including Glendale lawyer Arthur Charchian and former Wells Fargo Bank Manager Hakop Zakaryan.
An investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security has resulted in 12 convictions. Four unnamed defendants in the case remain fugitives, and another defendant is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting the case.