In one scheme, small businesses received fake letters demanding they pay… (U.S. attorney's office )
A father and son were arrested Thursday in connection with separate fraud schemes -- one of them a shakedown that targeted small businesses -- moments before boarding a Russia-bound plane.
Viktor Ryzhkin, 45, and his son Evgenii Ryzhkin, 22, of Los Angeles were arrested as they prepared to board a plane to Moscow with two other family members at Los Angeles International Airport. The pair face federal fraud charges for separate alleged crimes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The older Ryzhkin was arrested on suspicion of sending thousands of fake invoices to small-business owners in California. The shakedown caused at least 5,000 victims to send $225 to a fake company that purported to be a state agency.
Viktor Ryzhkin received only a fraction of the money, with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service intercepting the rest, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. Investigators are sifting through the intercepted mailings, which contain amounts that probably total at least $1.125 million, Mrozek said.
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The fake letters went out to 170,000 establishments. Viktor Ryzhkin could have potentially netted $38 million had all the victims complied with demands to send payments to his Beverly Hills company Corporate Business Filings, federal authorities said.
Small-business owners received invoices in March and April that appeared to be from the state of California, indicating they owed $225. The phony letters listed the correct California Small Business Administration number assigned to the business, which are publicly available, and threatened vendors with a $250 penalty if they didn’t pay by April 15.
Evgenii Ryzhkin is charged with participating in a conspiracy to take over home equity lines of credit and as a result cause at least $1.2 million in losses. A surveillance video shows him depositing a stolen check linked to a hijacked HELOC account, authorities said.
Agents suspect that Viktor Ryzhkin became aware of the investigation in late March and attempted to flee on a 4 p.m. flight on Thursday at LAX. Both Ryzhkins were expected to make their initial court appearances Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court.
Viktor Ryzhkin is charged with mail fraud and faces maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Evgenii Ryzhkin, in a separate criminal complaint, is charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
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