Armenian Power Gangsters Who Preyed on 99 Cents Only Customers Convicted

Armenian Power Gangsters Who Preyed on 99 Cents Only Customers Convicted

Two Armenian Power gangsters preyed on 99 Cents Only store customers and the elderly as part of a money-making conspiracy.

And now they're headed to federal prison for a long time.

See also: The Mysterious Case of L.A. Gangsters in Syria

The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. announced that Armenian Power leaders Mher "Capone" Darbinyan and Arman "Horse" Sharopetrosian were facing decades behind bars after a jury recently convicted them, prosecutors said. Darbinyan's case comes with ...

... a possible 973½ years behind bars. Who knew paper crime could be so costly?

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Darbinyan now has a sheet filled with convictions for "racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, extortion, bank fraud, access device fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon."

Authorities say Darbinyan, Sharopetrosian and a third man, gang associate Rafael Parsadanyan, were part of a scam that skimmed debit card PIN numbers from thousands of 99 Cents Only store customers and targeted the elderly for identity theft.

See also: Gangsters Skimmed Millions From 99 Cents Only Shoppers

The three were part of a huge crackdown on Armenian Power, a gang born in East Hollywood in the 1980s. Two indictments were handed down in 2011 and 90 defendants were ultimately ensnared in the case, feds say. Eighty-five have been convicted so far.

The prosecution focused on white-collar crimes, including bank fraud and counterfeit checks. There was violence involved, however. Feds say in a statement that the gang has a history of street-level crime:

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 evidence also showed that Armenian Power leaders worked closely with powerful organized-crime figures in Russia and Armenia, known as "thieves-in-law," to commit criminal activities in the Los Angeles area and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, 35-year-old Sharopetrosian was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and extortion; he faces a possible 60 years behind bars when he's sentenced.

Even while behind bars in 2009, feds allege, ...

... Sharopetrosian worked together with Darbinyan and others to carry out the extortion over a period of six months, at one point even arranging the kidnapping at gunpoint of the victim in order to hasten the extortion payments. Sharopetrosian, at different times, threatened to kill and kidnap the victim in order to coerce the victim into paying him more than $100,000.

Twenty-nine-year-old Parsadanyan assisted with the 99 Cents Only scheme by shuffling pilfered cash to a "co-schemer," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. He faces as many as 30 years behind bars.

Darbinyan of Valencia was an AP leader who ran the 99 Cents Only racket, feds said. According to their statement:

Darbinyan operated a sophisticated bank fraud scheme that used middlemen and runners to deposit and cash hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent checks drawn on the accounts of elderly bank customers and businesses. 

When AP started out in the 1980s, Latino gangs were mortal enemies and dozens of "soldiers" on both sides died as a result. More recently, feds say, Darbinyan "repeatedly engaged in criminal activities with members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang," to whom Armenia Power now pledges allegiance.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >