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Second alleged con man arrested in Waikiki scam

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 5:12 p.m. HST, Mar 13, 2014

The second of two Los Angeles con men indicted last August in connection with an ATM skimming scheme in Waikiki was arrested this week in Seattle.

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said Armen Apoyan, 33, formerly of Los Angeles, was arrested on Tuesday and charged first-degree theft. His bail was set at $250,000. The suspect will be extradited to Honolulu for trial.

A co-defendant, Argishti Khachaturyan, 33, was arrested in September and extradited to Honolulu, where his Circuit Court jury trial is scheduled for the week of June 16. He is being held in Oahu Community Correctional Center unable to post bail of $250,000.

Both men were indicted on Aug. 20, 2013 by an Oahu grand jury and charged with conspiracy and identity theft. 

The August indictment alleges that the two arrived in Honolulu from Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2013 and later installed an "overlay skimming device" over the card reader slot of a Central Pacific Bank ATM located at 2250 Kalakaua Ave.

The device was left on the ATM for three days and captured the account information of anyone who used the ATM.

The defendants removed the device, then made counterfeit ATM cards, which they used to withdraw money from victims' accounts at an ATM located at The Modern Hotel at 1775 Ala Moana Blvd. and at several other ATM's in Honolulu and California.

The defendants returned to Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2013.

The defendants caused financial losses in excess of $20,000, the statutory threshold for first-degree identity theft. If convicted, they face an automatic prison term of up to 20 years, according to Kaneshiro's office.

Police arrest records said there were at least five women and two men who made a complaint.

Apoyan's arrest is further evidence that law enforcement officials in Hawaii take identity theft very seriously, Kaneshiro said in a news release.

Kaneshiro said the arrest was the result of efforts by United States Marshals and the United States Secret Service, which spent the last six months tracking Apoyan.

The indictment came after a six-month joint investigation conducted by the Secret Service and the Honolulu Police Department. Several agencies assisted in the investigation including the FBI's Eastern European Organized Crime Task Force, U.S. Marshals, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the United States Social Security Administration.

In addition, the banks involved in this case -- Central Pacific Bank and First Hawaiian Bank -- cooperated with law enforcement officials, Kaneshiro said.

Last year, Kaneshiro successfully prosecuted two other Los Angeles con men for installing "skimming devices" inside gas pumps at local gas stations. Those men, Akop Changryan and Vardan Kagramanyan, are now serving 20-year prison sentences.

Like Changryan and Kagramanyan, the two latest suspects traveled to Hawaii for the purpose of targeting Hawaii businesses and residents, Kaneshiro said.

"America's financial system in based on trust," Kaneshiro said. "The actions of the defendants threaten the very foundation of that system, and for that reason, they will be extradited and prosecuted under Hawaii's identity theft laws." 

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