On August 21, 2017, it was announced that a California man had been sentenced to prison for partaking in a $1.66 million mass mailing scam that targeted trademark holders. One defendant in the case was a former manager of a Wells Fargo branch in Glendale, California. He was sentenced alongside his associates for laundering the scheme’s proceeds.
37-year-old Artashes Darbinyan of Glendale was given a 96-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution. 42-year-old Orbel Hakobyan of Glendale was given 24 months in prison. Hakobyan has been ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution. Finally, 37-year-old Albert Yagubyan of Burbank was sentenced to 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay more $1 million in restitution.
In December of 2016, Darbinyan pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud and a count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Hakobyan pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Yagubyan was convicted by a jury in March of 2017. He was found guilty on the following counts.
- One count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments
- Four counts of concealment money laundering
- One count of false bank entries
As a part of Darbinyan’s guilty plea, he admitted to running a mass mailing scam under the names Trademark Compliance Center and Trademark Compliance Office from September 2013 to September 2015. The scam targeted small businesses that had only recently applied for trademark protection with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
The defendant admitted to offering a fraudulent service in which TCO and TCC promised to monitor the victim’s trademark for infringement. The service also agreed to register the trademark with the United States Customs and Border Protection. The CBP does offer a real service that checks imports for infringements.
The offering materials were distributed through mail and came with a price of $385. Darinyan admitted that he never fulfilled any of the promises. He never intended to monitor or register any of the trademarks. The defendant also admitted to concealing his management of the scam by opening accounts at virtual office centers in Washington D.C. using the identities of other people. These accounts would receive the victims’ payments and then forward the payments to other centers in the Los Angeles area.
Then, Darbinyan and his co-conspirators used the illicit identities to open bank accounts at Wells Fargo. He utilized those accounts to launder the proceeds. The defendant also took several other measures to hide the crimes. He used bogus email accounts, only logged in using prepaid wireless modems, changed cell phone numbers regularly, and paid for office fees with money orders.
According to Darinyan’s guilty plea and evidence used at trial, the scam victimized 4,446 individuals and brought in $1.66 million in profits.