SAN DIEGO (CN) - Half-clever crooks exploited a Citibank security weakness by electronically withdrawing more than $1 million from nearly a dozen casinos - transactions that all had to be done within 60 seconds, federal prosecutors said.
Fourteen people have been charged, 13 of whom were arrested late last week in greater Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. One defendant is still a fugitive.
"The alleged scheme worked as follows," prosecutors said in a statement. "Defendant Ara Keshishyan recruited conspirators who were willing to open multiple Citibank checking accounts. He then supplied his codefendants with 'seed' money, which was deposited into the recently opened accounts. After the money was deposited into the checking accounts, Keshishyan and his conspirators would travel to nearly a dozen casinos, including the Morongo, Pechanga, San Manuel, Agua Caliente, Chukchansi, and Spa Resort casinos in California, the Tropicana, Wynn, Bicycle, and Whiskey Pete's casinos in Las Vegas, and Harrah's in Laughlin. 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."
Keshishyan then gave his cronies a cut and kept the rest of the money, which the ring often blew on gambling, according to the U.S. attorney.
They kept the withdrawals under $10,000 to avoid federal transaction reporting requirements, prosecutors said.
All the defendants are charged with conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to structure financial transactions to avoid reporting them. Each charge is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Keshishyan also faces 14 counts of bank fraud, each punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Here are the defendants, all of California: Ara Keshishyan, 29, of Fillmore; Ara Harutyunyan, 30; Artur Harutyunyan, 24, both of Glendale; Vahe Asatrian, 29, of North Hollywood; Sarkis Mooshidian, 37, of Burbank; Levon Karamyan, 58, fugitive; Migran Yamalyan, 30, of Winnetka; Seryozha Harutyunyan, 59, of Glendale; Lianna Avetisyan, 24, of North Hollywood; Ashot Oganisyan, 30, of Mission Hills; Ovsep Sarfyan, 33, of North Hollywood; Daniel J. Thomas, 56, of Huntington Beach; Hilda Hakverdyan, 53, of Glendale; and Asatur Asatryan, 33, of Pasadena.