Two immigrants from Armenia were sentenced Thursday in Baton Rouge federal court to nearly four years in prison after admitting possession of counterfeit credit cards.
Gayk Kazarosovich Eskichyan, 38, of Van Nuys, Calif., and Harout Ansourian, 38, of Jacksonville, Fla., have been in custody since they were arrested in December 2009.
Both men and their attorneys told U.S. District Judge James J. Brady they deserved reduced sentences because prosecutors did not prove more than 80 percent of the 2,523 sets of credit card numbers in their possession could be used to make purchases.
“There’s no way these numbers could be used to benefit somebody,” argued Glen R. Petersen, an attorney for Ansourian.
Eskichyan’s attorney, Daniel James Stanford, said the prison terms should not exceed 37 months.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens, however, countered that 411 of the sets of numbers clearly were tied to active accounts.
Stevens said a random sampling was conducted on the remaining number sets.
“Virtually every one of those numbers came back to an actual account,” Stevens added.
The case began nearly two years ago.
Eskichyan and Ansourian were towing a Mercedes Benz sedan behind a 1995 Chevrolet pickup when they were stopped by a Baton Rouge police officer for a lane violation on Interstate 10.
Police officers and Secret Service agents then discovered $1,300 in cash, 23 counterfeit credit cards, a laptop computer, several flash drives, two credit card readers and digital cameras, according to an affidavit by Secret Service Special Agent Jacquelyn Norris.
Luis Velez, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service office in Baton Rouge, later said the two men’s digital cameras and other equipment was capable of being used to steal card numbers at ATM machines.
On Thursday, Brady ruled: “The court can reasonably conclude … all of these cards could have been used.” He sentenced each man to 46 months in prison.
Eskichyan apologized for his actions.
Ansourian also apologized, but then expressed outrage.
“I’m not saying we’re angels here, no,” Ansourian added before arguing that a lesser sentence should have been imposed.
“You were in the business of taking from people money that didn’t belong to you,” Brady told Ansourian.
“Honestly, this is a joke,” Ansourian replied.
With credit for time served, both men would become eligible to seek an early release in April 2013.