Los Angeles: An aggravated robbery over the weekend has uncovered a new twist on criminals using Craiglist to find victims as well as a ready-source for buyers of stolen property.
A 24-year-old man from Panorama City advertised some computer equipment for sale on Craigslist and agreed to meet a potential buyer at the McDonald’s at 9107 Van Nuys Blvd. Three men showed up around 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, 2013. Levon Iskandaryan, 23, waved down the victim in the parking lot and approached the seller.
Apparently, Iskandaryan lost interest in the laptop for sale when he saw the victim holding an iPhone5. Iskandaryan coerced the seller to walk to a nearby car by saying the rear passenger was pointing a gun at him.
“There’s nothing new from this angle of crooks targeting sellers for robbery,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division. “But it’s what they did afterward to sell the stolen phone that surprised us.”
The victim followed Iskandaryan to a gray Toyota Solara where Mambreh Khachian, 33, was holding a gun, and a third man was seated in the driver’s seat. Iskandaryan grabbed the phone from the victim, then the two struggled over it for a moment. When the victim lost his hold, the car door shut, but caught the victim’s clothing. As the car sped away, it dragged the victim for several feet, tearing his clothes, scraping and burning his skin.
Detectives pinged the phone and traced the signal to a house in the 7900 block of Hillrose Street, Sunland. Officers found the gray Toyota and waited for someone to get in it. Around midnight, Khachian left the house and got into the car. Officers let him drive away then detained him and learned his name for the first time.
Officers went back to the house and conducted a search, finding Iskandaryan inside, where he lived with his parents. Since he was on probation for other crimes, officers were able to search the house without a warrant, but they found no iPhone.
“These guys were shocked the cops were on to them so fast,” Lt. Vernon explained. “We think they were a bit concerned they might have killed their victim after leaving him in the parking lot, so they became very cooperative, copping to the robbery but, in a very self-serving way, saying they never intended to hurt anyone.”
Both men were documented members of AP, or Armenian Power, which is a street gang. Neither would give the name of the third man and driver of the car, but the car was accounted for. The driver is wanted, and described only as Armenian with a chrome bracelet and green eyes. He was dropped off in North Hollywood after the robbery, but before the phone was fenced.
Iskandaryan and Khachian went back to Craigslist and contacted a person who listed a WANT AD for an iPhone5. That person met the duo at a Starbucks in Glendale and paid $350 for the stolen iPhone. Police were able to confirm the location by the phone’s ping history. Iskandaryan and Khachian split the cash, but did not have it all when they were arrested.
“It sure puts a new spin on “Be careful what you ask for,” Lt. Vernon explained. “Everyone’s knows you can become a victim trying to sell things on Craigslist, but now you might become an unwitting victim or even accomplice by listing a want ad. Caveat emptor has morphed to Let the buyer AND the SELLER beware.”
Police hope that by publicizing this case, the unwitting buyer will come forward and surrender the iPhone so detectives don’t have to track it down. They also believe there may be many more victims and unwitting buyers from these two men.
Iskandaryan and Khachian were booked for armed Robbery and their bails were set at $125,000.
Anyone with information about this crime is urged to call Mission Robbery detectives, at
213-838-9898. During weekends and non-business hours, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD247 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to www.LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.