14 Held in Alleged Cash Advance Scheme

Three North Hollywood residents are among those booked for allegedly duping the nationwide bank out of $1 million.

Fourteen Southland suspects, including three from North Hollywood, were booked Wednesday and Thursday for allegedly scamming Citibank out of $1 million by exploiting a security gap at cash advance kiosks throughout California and Nevada, according to a statement from the FBI.

One of the suspects, Ara Keshishyan, allegedly recruited people to open accounts with the bank and provided them with seed money. Then they would travel to various casinos like Morongo, Pechanga, San Manuel and Agua Caliente, the statement read.

"When inside the casino, the conspirators, including Keshishyan, used cash advance kiosks at casinos in California and Nevada to withdraw (all within 60 seconds) several times the amount of money deposited into the accounts, by exploiting the Citibank security gap they discovered," the release read.

The suspects used the money to gamble and were given comped hotel rooms because of the amount they were spending, according to the FBI. Withdrawals were kept under $10,000 to avoid federal transaction reporting requirements, the FBI release read.

All of the suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to illegally structure financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, a crime that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, according to the FBI.

Keshishyan faces 14 counts of bank fraud, each of which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

The statement read:

Several of the defendants were arraigned in Los Angeles [Thursday], where they agreed to make their initial appearances in San Diego on Oct. 29, 2012, before Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks. The remaining defendants are expected to be arraigned in San Diego over the next several days. A motions hearing is scheduled in the case for Nov. 30, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. in San Diego before United States District Court Judge Janice L. Sammartino.

The list of suspects include:

Ara Keshishyan 29 Fillmore, CA Ara Harutyunyan 30 Glendale, CA Artur Harutyunyan 24 Glendale, CA Vahe Asatrian 29 North Hollywood, CA Sarkis Mooshidian 37 Burbank, CA Levon Karamyan 58 Fugitive Migran Yamalyan 30 Winnetka, CA Seryozha Harutyunyan 59 Glendale, CA Lianna Avetisyan 24 North Hollywood, CA Ashot Oganisyan 30 Mission Hills, CA Ovsep Sarfyan 33 North Hollywood, CA Daniel J. Thomas 56 Huntington Beach, CA Hilda Hakverdyan 53 Glendale, CA Asatur Asatryan 33 Pasadena, CA
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