English: Las Vegas Strip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To Ara Keshishyan's credit, he had an idea - illegal as it may have been - and he ran with it. According to a federal Indictment unsealed on October 26, 2012, in the Southern District of California, Keshishyan recruited at least 13 individuals, all of whom were recently arrested in the Los Angeles, CA area, as part of a conspiracy. The rip-off isn't all that complicated in terms of its goal but the mechanism of getting there was damn clever.
Here's what the Indictment alleges:
Ara Keshishyan put together a crew and gave each of the participants so-called "seed money," which they deposited into Citibank checking accounts that each had recently opened. Thereafer, the crew traveled to the following casinos:
After arriving at their targeted casino, the conspirators went to on-premise cash advance kiosks and withdrew multiples of the deposits that they had previously made into the Citibank accounts. Apparently, Keshishyan had discovered a glitch in Citibank's security protocol whereby multiple withdrawals made within 60 seconds of each other at the kiosks would result in cash payments from the various cages at the casinos. The deposits and withdrawals were each kept under the federal transaction reporting level of $10,000 so as to conceal detection.
Being the alleged brains of the operation, Keshishyan kept the collected funds and doled out cuts to his conspirators. His take was generally used for gambling. On top of having gamed the Citibank cash advance process, Keshishyan and his crew were often "comped" into the casinos with free rooms based upon the level of their gambling.
NOTE: An indictment merely contains allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The defendants include: Ara Keshishyan, 29; Ara Harutyunyan, 30; Artur Harutyunyan, 24; Vahe Asatrian, 29; Sarkis Mooshidian, 37; Levon Karamyan, 58; Migran Yamalyan, 30; Seryozha Harutyunyan, 59; Lianna Avetisyan, 24; Ashot Oganisyan, 30; Ovsep Sarfyan, 33; Daniel J. Thomas, 56; Hilda Hakverdyan, 53; and Asatur Asatryan,33. As of October 30, 2012, Levon Karamyan remains a fugitive. All 14 indicted defendants were charged with conspiracies to:
Each of the conspiracy charges is punishable by up to five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine.
Defendant Keshishyan is additionally charged with 14 counts of bank fraud, each of which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The indictment also alleges forfeiture in connection with the crimes charged.