Don Bauder 9:21 a.m., Aug. 2
Gang collecting bogus tax refunds broken up
Fifty-five indicted, many from foreign countries
Culminating a two-year investigation by federal authorities in San Diego and Los Angeles, four federal indictments accusing 55 people of participating in financial schemes were unsealed today (Sept. 26). Officials have arrested 22 defendants, but 33 are still at large and many are possibly out of the country.
The largest indictment charges 29 people with filing around 2,000 bogus tax returns, and seeking $17 million in undeserved refunds. This caper allegedly involved scores of San Diego-based nationals from Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, visiting the city on short-term visas. One of the defendants, Yvonne Mihailescu, used her position as an employee of Wells Fargo Bank to open accounts in which the fraudulent refunds were stashed. The defendants rented apartments in San Diego and elsewhere, and opened bank accounts at Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches.
In another indictment, defendants got bank account and personal information about wealthy Wells Fargo customers and sent impostors to branches to withdraw large sums of money.
The alleged scam in the major indictment was led by Arthur Grigorian, Ernest Soloian, and Hovahannes Harutyunyan. The first two are from Glendale and the last from Van Nuys.