A father and son wanted in connection with separate fraud schemes were arrested by federal agents as the men attempted to board a plane at Los Angeles International Airport May 9, authorities said.
Viktor Ryzhkin, 45, of the Little Armenia section of Los Angeles and his son, Evgenii Ryzhkin, 22, who lived with his father, were arrested as they prepared to board a Transaero Airlines flight to Russia, said Thom Mrozek, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman. The Ryzhkins, both of whom are Russian nationals, and two other family members, all had one-way tickets to Moscow that had been purchased days before.
According to a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court May 9, Viktor Ryzhkin allegedly targeted more than 170,000 California small business owners in a mail fraud scheme that would have brought in nearly $40 million had all of the potential victims complied with requests to send payments to “Corporate Business Filings,” a Beverly Hills company set up and controlled by Viktor Ryzhkin.
The small business owners targeted in the scheme received invoices that appeared to be from the state of California, notifying them that they each owed $225 to the state and directing them to fill out certain forms related to their businesses, according to the complaint. At least 5,000 victims sent $225 to the fake company that purported to be the state agency, the complaint states.
The letters sent to the victims each listed the correct, publicly available California Small Business Administration entity number assigned to the particular small business.
The business owners were told that they would face $250 penalties if they did not remit payment by April 15, 2013, and did not fill out the forms as directed, the complaint alleges. However, the letters and invoices that appeared to be from the state were completely bogus, Mrozek said.
Investigators believe that Viktor Ryzhkin became aware of the investigation into the alleged scheme late last month, and along with his son and two family members, planned to board a plane when they were arrested by United States Postal Inspectors.
Evgenii Ryzhkin was charged in a separate criminal complaint filed in United States District Court May 9. He is charged with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to take over home equity lines of credit in a scheme that caused at least $1.2 million in losses, Mrozek said.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Evgenii Ryzhkin, he was allegedly caught on surveillance video depositing a stolen check linked to a hijacked home equity account, Mrozek said.
The two cases against the Ryzhkins are being investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection assisted during the May 9 arrests.