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Feds roll up SoCal Armenian Power gang

Feb. 16, 2011 at 7:04 PM   |   Comments

GLENDALE, Calif., Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors said they rounded up 74 of 99 suspects Wednesday in a major blow to an Armenian gang based in the Los Angeles area.

A pair of federal racketeering indictments, as well as various California cases, named the alleged members and associates of Armenian Power, a reputed mafia centered in Glendale, who are accused of taking part in rackets ranging from bank and healthcare fraud and identity theft to drug trafficking and kidnapping.

Armenian Power, commonly known as AP, has grown from a street gang formed in the 1980s to an ambitious and well-connected criminal organization that teamed up with African-American gangs and the notorious Mexican mafia, the U.S. attorney's office said in a written statement.

"These groups engaged in various fraud schemes that clearly have had a significant impact on financial institutions and their customers who have lost millions of dollars and lost their sense of security through identity theft and credit card fraud," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said.

One of AP's alleged scams involved the placement of hidden credit card skimmers at 99 Cents Only Stores across Southern California. The skimmers captured debit and credit card data from hundreds of unsuspecting customers, which was used to create counterfeit cards.

Birotte said the store chain had cooperated in the investigation and taken steps to improve the security of their customers' cards, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In another instance, AP and other gang members paid off bank employees for information that allowed them to take over customer accounts and drain them of an estimated $10 million.

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