DMV Investigators Foil Large Identity Theft Ring in Fresno County

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122, Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Media Relations

September 22, 2008

Sacramento— As part of a multi-agency task force, investigators from the California Department of Motor Vehicles arrested nine suspects who are alleged to have been involved in a large scale identity theft ring in the Fresno County area resulting in losses over $1 million. The suspects from Madera and Fresno are being held on 113 felony counts of identity theft, grand theft, auto theft, and perjury among others.

“We have zero tolerance for identity theft in the State of California. The security and integrity of Californians’ identities are our most important priorities,” said DMV Director George Valverde. “I applaud the action of our investigators and members of the task force.”

The arrests occurred last week as DMV investigators worked undercover alongside officers from the Fresno Police and Fresno County Sheriffs Department. The Clovis and Madera County Sheriffs SWAT teams and other local agencies assisted in the search warrant operation.

Arrested on warrants issued by the Fresno County Superior Court were Manual Badalyan , 45; Victor Kotchkina, 45; Flora Kotchkina, 48; Rufina Kotchkina, 23; Armen Markaryan, 24; Ararat Pogosian, 52; Vladimir Bernik ,40; Aram Badalyan , 44; and Kseniya Astvatsaturian, 46.

The bust culminated a 13 month-long investigation that began in 2007 when Investigators at DMV’s Fresno Investigations Office were given a tip that an identity theft ring was operating in California. Utilizing a local brokering business, the ring was able to use stolen identities and false documents to obtain vehicle loans and victimize 16 financial institutions.

Editor’s Note: Tom Wilson, Supervising Investigator at DMV’s Fresno Investigations Office, is available for interviews. He can be contacted at (559) 647-7128.

DMV’s Investigations Division enhances consumer protection through active fraud/counterfeit detection, investigation, and enforcement services. The DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers; maintains driving records; registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels; investigates auto and identity-related fraud; and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools.

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