Buying BMWs On Plastic? It’s A Scam, Say Feds

By Bruce Vielmetti

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Aug. 17, 2009

Shorewood couple charged with faking balances to get SUVs

An immigrant couple in Shorewood used several credit cards with falsely
inflated balances to buy two BMW SUVs that they told a dealer they
intended to ship to Russia, according to federal court records.

Sergey Mikayelyan, 49, and Rita Grigoryan, 47, fraudulently raised the
balances on credit cards in their names by sending to their accounts
payment using convenience checks from other credit card accounts,
checks that exceeded the available balances on those credit cards,
a scam known as a bust-out scheme, according to a criminal complaint.

The two were arrested Friday and made an initial appearance in federal
court Saturday, when Grigoryan was ordered released.

Mikayelyan was held until Monday, when a judge ordered him released
on his own recognizance after hearing that he has family in the
United States, including his two children, and had applied for asylum
after coming to the United States from Armenia six years ago. But
Mikayelyan was ordered not to have any credit cards or make any
purchases on credit.

According to the complaint: The couple bought two BMW X3s from
Autosource Motors in Cudahy late last month for a total of about
$32,000, using seven credit cards, and made other large purchases
not described in the complaint.

The case apparently came to the attention of the U.S. Secret Service
last week with a call from a fraud investigator with Citibank, one
of the banks that issued credit cards to the defendants.

Both Mikayelyan and Grigoryan were involved in the purchase of the
two BMWs, the dealership’s general manager, Nathan McFadden, told
investigators, and they had Wisconsin driver’s licenses that showed
they lived in Shorewood. Each had permanent resident alien immigration
status, according to court records.

On Thursday, Mikayelyan returned to the dealer to request new tires for
one of the BMWs because he planned to ship it to Russia. The second
BMW was already in a shipping container in Chicago, also headed to
Russia, he told McFadden, who declined to discuss the sales on Monday.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint,
banking experts told the Secret Service that credit card bust-out
schemes often are employed by foreign nationals before they intend
to permanently leave the U.S. Both Mikayelyan and Grigoryan were out
of work, and they had given notice to their landlord that they were
leaving, a prosecutor said.

But at Monday’s detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge William
E. Callahan Jr. also heard that the couple had just put down a deposit
on a bigger apartment in Milwaukee and that Grigoryan had been let
go from her last job, not quit.

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