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Valencia man, alleged Armenian Power gang leader, among those convicted in racketeering conspiracy

Posted: April 18, 2014 5:38 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2014 5:38 p.m.

A 38-year-old Valencia man and leader in the Armenian Power gang could face almost 1,000 years in federal prison after being convicted on 57 criminal counts, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office said this week.

The criminal counts stem from a racketeering conspiracy that included bank fraud, identity theft, extortion and firearms offenses, they said.

Mher Darbinyan, known to some as “Capone,” was convicted Thursday by a federal jury following a four-week trial, according to United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., Acting Assistant Attorney General David O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Assistant Director in Charge Bill L. Lewis of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Darbinyan was found guilty of 57 criminal counts, including bank fraud, extortion, extortion conspiracy, access device fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Officials say Darbinyan organized a “sophisticated credit and debit card skimming scheme that stole account numbers and personal identification numbers from thousands of people who used their cards at 99 Cents Only Stores across Southern California.”

“The scheme ... involved the bank accounts of thousands of customers of the discount store,” reads a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Officials also alleged Darbinyan was a leader of the Armenian Power gang and participated in a number of offenses, including fraud, identity theft and extortion.

Darbinyan also engaged in criminal activities with members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, according to officials.

At sentencing, Darbinyan faces a statutory maximum penalty of 973 1/2 years in federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21.

Darbinyan was convicted Thursday along with two others, Arman “Horse” Sharopetrosian and gang associate Rafael Parsadanyan.

The three are among 90 individuals charged in 2011 in two indictments targeting the Armenian Power gang. Officials say 85 of those charged have since been convicted.

Armenian Power was formed as a street gang in the 1980s in the East Hollywood area of Los Angeles, according to officials. The gang has more than 250 documented members and hundreds of associates — primarily individuals of Armenian descent and of other countries in the former Soviet bloc, officials say.

“According to court documents, Armenian Power members and associates regularly carry out violent criminal acts, including murders, attempted murders, kidnappings, robberies, extortions, and witness intimidation to enrich its members and associates and preserve and enhance the power of the criminal enterprise,” the news release reads.




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