A Glendale man pleaded guilty in a series of scams in which he used phony credit cards to buy millions of dollars worth of luxury watches and cars, alcohol and cemetery plots, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Monday.
Mikayel Hmayakyan, 43, entered guilty pleas to two counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. According to ICE officials, Hmayakyan was the ringleader in the “bust-out” schemes where he and others fraudulently charged millions of dollars to credit cards to buy things that he then turned around and sold to make money.
“Hmayakyan and others obtained the credit cards – sometimes using their real names, but often with synthetic identities created with a combination of real and fictitious information – that were run up to the credit limit,” ICE officials said in a news release. “Members of the scheme then ‘paid down’ by submitting payments from accounts with insufficient funds or through fake accounts to restore the credit line, which allowed them to make additional purchases.”
In one scheme from November 2014 to September 2015, Hmayakyan used the credit cards to purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of alcohol on behalf of Liquor Spot in Glendale, which is now closed, according to the plea agreement.
Co-defendant Vahan Aloyan, 45, of Glendale, was the Liquor Spot’s manager, ICE officials said.
During the execution of a search warrant in 2016, Homeland Security Investigations special agents and law enforcement partners seized more than 37,000 bottles of alcoholic beverages, worth approximately $300,000, from the Liquor Spot.
Authorities also seized nearly $13,000 from the liquor store, as well as almost $13,000 and 37 watches and other jewelry from Aloyan’s residence, the release stated.
Between August 2010 through April 2016, ICE officials said Hmayakyan fraudulently applied for loans using a fake name to obtain a Kia Optima and a real person’s name for luxury cars, including Lexus automobiles.
In the plea agreement, Hmayakyan admitted that he never intended to pay any credit card bills nor made any payments on the loans.
Hmayakyan also admitted that from March 2014 until January 2017, he used the fraudulent credit cards in the names of various aliases – including “Liam Sarcozzy” and “Marco Reus” – to buy plots at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, which he later sold for profit.
According to the plea agreement, the total intended loss to which the financial institutions were exposed was $5,232,383.
Hmayakyan will return to court on Nov. 16 for a sentencing hearing. He faces a maximum sentence of 62 years in federal prison.
Co-defendant Gayane Hakobyan, 70, of Hollywood Hills, also pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of bank fraud. Hakobyan admitted that she participated in the scheme by allowing others to open credit card accounts in her name.
Hakobyan is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Oct. 8. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
Co-defendant Mikayel Hovhannisyan, 38, of North Hollywood, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to one count of bank fraud and is serving a nine-month federal prison sentence.
Aloyan, the sole remaining defendant who worked at the Liquor Spot, is scheduled for trial on Oct. 6.
The federal charges were the result of an investigation by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles, the U.S. Secret Service and the Glendale Police Department.