Sacramento man found guilty in fraud scheme
February 15, 2017
• Tried to defraud American Express and account holders nationwide
• Over $3.4 million in unauthorized charges
After a four-day trial, a jury found Mihran Melkonyan, 36, of Sacramento, has been found guilty on 24 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud related to a scheme to commit credit card fraud by operating phony online businesses, says U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
Co-defendant Ruslan Kirilyuk, 39, of Beverly Hills, failed to appear at trial, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
On December 15, 2014, co‑defendant Rouslan Akhmerov, 42, of Studio City, pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud for his participation in the scheme. He is set to be sentenced on March 21.
According to evidence presented at trial, between October 2011 and March 2014, Mr. Melkonyan worked with Mr. Akhmerov and others in a credit card billing scheme that involved creating approximately 68 fraudulent online companies established with the sole purpose of fraudulently charging approximately 119,000 stolen credit card numbers. In total, the members of the scheme billed the stolen credit card numbers for over $3.4 million in unauthorized charges.
As established at trial, to create the fraudulent companies, the members of the scheme obtained over 200 stolen report cards from the San Juan Unified School District. Those report cards had student information on them such as names and Social Security numbers. Using that information, Mr. Melkonyan and others created fraudulent companies with names such as CVS Store, Walt Mart (sic), and Chevran (sic).
Mr. Melkonyan and others then opened merchant accounts with American Express using those names and false identities. Working with co-conspirators in Russia, Mr, Melkonyan and others used those merchant accounts to process American Express credit card charges for the fraudulent businesses.
Once American Express credited the businesses’ merchant accounts for the fake sales, Mr. Melkonyan and others transferred the money from the merchant accounts to bank accounts they controlled that had been opened in other people’s identities. In some cases, Mr. Melkonyan directed foreign students visiting the United States on J-1 student visas to open bank accounts. When the students left the United States, he took over the bank accounts to use for collecting fraud proceeds.
Mr. Melkonyan is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. on May 5 when he will face a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.