Four Southland men, including the manager of several area gas stations, are facing federal charges in an alleged identity theft scheme involving stolen credit card numbers used to buy hundreds of gallons of fuel, some of which was purchased in Sherman Oaks.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI contend the scheme involved identity theft against 50 victims and losses of more than $50,000. The men were allegedly observed buying gasoline at several stations in Los Angeles using credit card numbers later determined to have been stolen.
The gas was pumped into large vans or utility trucks outfitted with large storage tanks, then transferred to a fuel tanker in order to be sold by the defendants, the FBI alleges.
The four defendants are:
-- Vardan Mkryan, 42, of Toluca Lake;
-- Vahe Harutunyun, 28, of North Hollywood;
-- Khachik Karabadzhakyan, 58, of Oxnard; and
-- Sedrak Karabadzhakyan, 24, of Oxnard.
During an investigation of the Armenian Power gang, the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force found information indicating that Mkryan was involved in a variety of criminal activities, according to FBI spokeswman Eimiller.
Three of the four were arrested Thursday. Mkryan, said to be the manager
of several area gas stations, was arrested Friday after surrendering to authorities, Eimiller said.
A task force comprised of the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department, Burbank Police Department, Glendale Police Department and other agencies began investigating the suspects in late 2011, according to a FBI complaint.
While under surveillance, Khachik Karabadzhakyan was spotted making alleged fraudulent gas purchases in Studio City, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks on Jan. 18, the complaint read.
A North Hollywood arson fire on April 15 allegedly involved the burning of two vans reportedly used by the suspects, according to the FBI complaint.
The suspects were also allegedly spotted making fraudelent gas purchases in Sun Valley, Van Nuys and other communities, according to the FBI.
The men were named in two criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles charging them with conspiracy to commit access-device fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison.