Couple's home raided in fraud case
By Tania Chatila, News-Press and Leader

*Suspects record customers' credit card info to make illegal
purchases, police say.

Glendale News Press
Sept. 23, 2005

NORTHWEST GLENDALE -- A Glendale couple was arrested Thursday morning
on fraud charges after police raided their Myrtle Street home and
Glenoaks Boulevard business, recovering thousands of dollars worth
of stolen merchandise and hundreds of credit cards, police said.

Karen and Tatevik Mkrtchian, both 35, were arrested on suspicion of
identity theft, possession of altered credit cards and burglary at
about 7 a.m. Thursday morning, after police served search warrants for
the couple's home and business, Glendale Police Sgt. Brian Cohen said.

"We were pulling stuff out of vases, anywhere you could possibly
imagine," Cohen said.

Investigators believe the couple was using stolen credit card
information to purchase items for resale at their business, Cavalier
Liquor Store, at 1307 Glenoaks Blvd., Cohen said.

"But I would guess their lifestyle was also geared at living off the
income from using those credit cards," he said.

The couple may have had a device in their credit card machine that
would catch information as customers swiped their cards, and may have
had a camera located in a such a way as to film customers entering
their pin numbers, Cohen said.

Employees at neighboring businesses said they never noticed anything
unusual at the liquor store, and were surprised to see it closed
Thursday morning.

"I was wondering about why they didn't open today," said Gordon
Arakelian, co-owner of Ninos Pizza, next door.

Arakelian said most of the store's customers would come from the DMV,
across the street.

"They are going to be worried," he said. "It was, for me, a
surprise. They were good people, good neighbors. I never had any
problems."

Along with clothing, high-end crystal figurines, drugs and guns, police
confiscated three cars from the couple's residence -- two Mercedeses
and a Dodge Magnum -- that are not registered to the Mkrtchian's,
Cohen said.

"Now, all of this stuff needs to be investigated and proved," Glendale
Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

Investigators have not yet sorted out which items were purchased
illegitimately, but have confirmed that much of the liquor store's
merchandise was bought with fraudulent credit cards, Cohen said.

"Some things we'll be able to prove, and some things we won't, but we
went in there looking for certain items and we found that and more,"
Cohen said.

The couple is being held at Glendale City Jail, pending an arraignment
at Glendale Court next week, Cohen said. A date has not been set.

Karen Mkrtchian is being held at $200,000 bond and Tatevik Mkrtchian
is being held at $50,000 bond.

If the two post their bails, they will have to prove the money is
not from any type of criminal activity, Cohen said.

Investigators, who have been following the case for months, are
looking into other family members' possible involvement, Cohen said.

Police have not determined how much money in merchandise the couple
may have funneled through fraudulent activity.

Anyone with any additional information should contact Glendale Police
Det. Tigran Topadzikyan at (818) 548-3101.

* TANIA CHATILA covers public safety and courts. She may be reached at
(818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at [email protected]