Local casinos targeted by ring that stole from cash advance kiosks

Casinos not commenting on heists of more than a million dollars that targeted an outside vendor

Jeff Stahl, KESQ News Channel 3 Morning News Anchor, jstahl@kesq.com
POSTED: 07:08 AM PDT Oct 31, 2012    UPDATED: 12:00 PM PDT Oct 31, 2012 
LOS ANGELES -

Both the Morongo Casino and the Spa and Agua Caliente casinos have declined to comment on a theft ring that stole more than a million dollars from Citibank using cash advance kiosks at casinos in Southern California and Nevada.

Both tribes referred News Channel 3 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while stating the ongoing investigation.

Fourteen people were charged in the scheme.  An indictment claimed the defendants stole the money by exploiting a gap-which required multiple withdrawals all within 60 seconds-in Citibank's electronic transaction security protocols.

FBI agents were assisted by the Glendale Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department in arresting 13 of the defendants in the Los Angeles area last Wednesday and Thursday.

Court documents suggest Ara Keshishyan, 29, of Fillmore recruited conspirators who were willing to open multiple Citibank checking accounts. He then gave them "seed" money, which was deposited into the recently opened accounts.

The group, led by Keshishyan, would then travel to nearly a dozen casinos, including the Morongo, Pechanga, San Manuel, Agua Caliente, Chukchansi, and Spa Resort casinos in California; the Tropicana, Wynn, Bicycle, and Whiskey Pete's casinos in Las Vegas; and Harrah's in Laughlin.

They then allegedly used cash advance kiosks in the casinos to rapidly withdraw, within 60 seconds, several times the amount of money deposited into the accounts by exploiting a Citibank security gap they discovered.

The defendants are now charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to illegally structure financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements.