A Southern California man who masterminded a $1.66 million mass-mailing scam targeting trademark applicants plead guilty Monday to charges of mail fraud and money laundering.
An associate plead guilty to helping launder the scam’s proceeds, according to officials.
Artashes Darbinyan, 37, of Glendale, plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments before U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California.
Orbel Hakobyan, 42, also of Glendale, plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments before Judge Wilson. Sentencing for both has been set for June 19, 2017, officials said.
In total, Darbinyan admitted, the trademark scam defrauded approximately 4,446 victims of $1.66 million.
Darbinyan and Hakobyan were charged along with Albert Yagubyan, 36, of Burbank, California, in a second superseding indictment unsealed on July 19, 2016.
Yagubyan, the former branch manager of the Wells Fargo branch where the majority of the scam’s proceeds were laundered, is awaiting trial.
Yagubyan is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
As part of his guilty plea, Darbinyan admitted that he ran a mass-mailing scam through companies called Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and Trademark Compliance Office (TCO).
The scam involved fraudulent offers of a service in which TCC and TCO promised to monitor an applicant’s trademark for infringing marks and to register the trademark with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which offers a real service that screens imports for possibly infringing trademarks.
The offers were made via mail solicitations to applicants for U.S. trademarks for $385. Darbinyan never registered, nor ever intended to register, any of the trademarks with Customs and Border Protection for the customers who paid the fee, according to authorities.
Darbinyan also admitted to concealing his control over the scam through elaborate measures in which he illegally used the identities of other people to open accounts at virtual office centers in the Washington, D.C., area, which received and then forwarded victims’ payments to other virtual office centers in the Los Angeles area.
Using those same illicit identities, Darbinyan then opened bank accounts at Wells Fargo through which he laundered the proceeds of the scam. To further avoid detection, Darbinyan paid virtual office fees with money orders; used bogus email accounts, which he would only log into using prepaid wireless modems; and regularly changed cell phone numbers, officials said.
As part of his guilty plea, Hakobyan admitted to helping launder the proceeds of the trademark scam. Specifically, Hakobyan deposited victims’ checks into bank accounts at Wells Fargo that had been opened under false names.
Hakobyan misrepresented his identity to withdraw funds from the accounts at Wells Fargo in the form of cash and cashier’s checks, which he then used to purchase gold. In total, he admitted to helping launder approximately $1.29 million of the scam’s proceeds, according to officials.Warning: file_get_contents(): https:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_fopen=0 in /hermes/bosweb26a/b360/ipg.sbnotebookcom/wp-content/themes/goodnews5/framework/functions/posts_share.php on line 151 Warning: file_get_contents(https://plusone.google.com/_/+1/fastbutton?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cjnotebook.com%2Fman-pleads-guilty-to-mass-mail-scam-targeting-trademark-applicants%2F): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /hermes/bosweb26a/b360/ipg.sbnotebookcom/wp-content/themes/goodnews5/framework/functions/posts_share.php on line 151