Armenian Power gang targeted in raids
Kidnapping, extortion, identity theft and drug trafficking
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A multi-agency state task force arrested 74 members and associates of the Armenian Power organized crime group today on a range of charges that include kidnapping, extortion, bank and identity theft and drug trafficking.
Two federal indictments name 99 suspects, 88 of whom are associated with the gang known as AP or AP13, according to federal agents. All together, the gang is believed to have stolen more than $20 million.
"The indictments that target the Armenian Power organized crime enterprise provide a window into a group that appears willing to do anything and everything illegal to make a profit," United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
In one indictment, 29 people are charged with racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.
Among the conspiracies alleged are bank fraud and a credit card scheme that victimized hundreds of customers of 99 Cents Only Stores. Gang members secretly outfitted credit card machines with electronic skimmers, then used the confidential information to bilk institutions out of more than $2 million. About three weeks ago, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles handed up a 134-count indictment naming 70 defendants, alleging hundreds of crimes, including trafficking in pot and running illegal gambling operations.
"These types of criminal organizations through the use of extortion, kidnappings and other violent acts have a demonstrated a willingness to prey upon members of their own community,'' Birotte said.
FBI Agent Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said nine federal agency had been working together to deal a crushing blow to the gang, which is alleged to have more than 200 members in the area.
"While some organized crime groups have been largely suppressed,'' Martinez said, "others, including AP, have managed to grow from a street gang into an international organized crime group.''
The other indictment was handed up in Orange County and names 20 defendants, two of whom are also charged under RICO.
In Orange County, gang members engaged in bank fraud that victimized retirees.
Agents said members of AP worked with black street gangs and bribed bank insiders to get information that enabled them to rip off older depositors.
Losses in that scam totaled at least $10 million.
Los Angeles County prosecutors also charged 11 defendants in seven cases, pushing the total number of defendants charged to 99.
The predawn raids carried out today were part of "Operation Power Outage'' and led by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, which includes FBI, Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as local authorities in Pasadena and Glendale.
The gang, which has its roots in eastern Hollywood, is mostly made up of immigrants from Armenia and other former Soviet states. While members often identify themselves with tattoos, graffiti and gang clothing, the organization is less concerned with controlling "turf" than traditional street gangs and has long maintained a presence in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
"Operation Power Outage is sending a strong message to the criminal element victimizing the citizens of our communities,'' Glendale police Chief Ron De Pompa said. "The cooperation and the marshalling of resources with our allied agencies enable us to dismantle these organizations."
In a kidnapping scheme described in the indictment, several AP members snatched a man and forced him to pay ransom by holding him in an auto body shop run by an AP member.
In addition to the scheme involving the 99 Cents Only Stores, AP members allegedly engaged in a large-scale check fraud scheme in which they unlawfully got customer information for high-value bank accounts, impersonated the bank customers to acquire checks, then cashed and deposited checks in an effort to deplete the accounts.
According to the racketeering indictment, AP works with the Mexican Mafia, the prison-based gang said to control much of what Hispanic street gangs do. Members of AP also keep up ties with
criminal operations in Armenia and Russia.
"This successful multi-agency investigation concentrated on a racketeering criminal organization comprised of high-level Russian/Armenian crime figures responsible for violent acts on innocent victims and numerous fraudulent activities," Sheriff Lee Baca said.
CANOGA PARK, Calif.—Emanuel Alberto Pleitez will begin the get-out-the-vote efforts of his campaign for mayor today by starting a six-day, 100-mile running and bicycling trip across Los Angeles.
Pleitez will travel the 15.4 miles from the Canoga Park Community Center to Mestizo Restaurant in Mission Hills today in three hours.
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Sheriff Lee Baca is expected to meet with the U.S
attorney in Los Angeles today amid growing tension between his department and
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Traffic is expected to particularly heavy throughout West Los Angeles and Culver City tomorrow to accommodate President Barack Obama's fundraising visit to the Southland.
Obama is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at 2:30 p.m. He will attend at a fundraiser at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, where he is scheduled to speak around 4:30 p.m., then attend a private fundraiser at a Brentwood restaurant.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A senior attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement received a 212-month prison term today for taking nearly $500,000 in bribes from immigrants who were promised benefits allowing them to remain in the United States.
ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 40, of Alta Loma, was also ordered to pay $296,865 in restitution for fraudulently receiving workers' compensation benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
MALIBU, Calif.—More bones were found on Sunday in a Malibu ravine where the remains of a Mitrice Richardson were found 11 months after she was allowed to walk away from a sheriff's station.
The goal of the search, which included coroner's investigators and a sheriff's homicide detective, was to find anything that could be related to the case of Mitrice Richardson, Steve Whitmore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told City News Service.