Routt County man arrested on 96 counts of fraud pleads not guilty
A Routt County man accused of racking up more than $87,000 in fraudulent transactions has pleaded not guilty, setting his case for a jury trial.
The trial for Movses Mikaelyan, 36, is scheduled to take place Aug. 7-11 with a motions hearing set for May 10. Mikaelyan’s defense attorney, public defender Abigail Kurtz-Phelan, requested an in-person motions hearing in which all parties and witnesses are present.
Mikaelyan is accused of multiple felonies including identity theft, cybercrime, theft and making unauthorized financial payments with the intent to commit fraud 96 times, according to his arrest affidavit.
The Routt County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the case in November 2020 after an act of identify theft was reported by Albert Deeds, the owner of True North Furs. Mikaelyan was an employee of Deeds and managed the company’s website and even lived on Deeds’ property for some length of time, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says Deeds reported to the sheriff’s office that Mikaelyan requested Deeds open a Paypal MasterCard debit card to pay Google to advertise Deeds’ business. Deeds claimed that after filling out the application, he never got the card.
According to Deeds, he received a statement for the Paypal card that showed about $11,000 worth of fraudulent charges. At the time, Deeds did not chose to pursue criminal charges.
In February 2021, the sheriff’s office received a civil complaint from someone who said they had provided Mikaelyan with $3,500 for a down payment to purchase a Volvo from “R and B Motors” in Denver. The reporting party said Mikaelyan had put additional money toward the vehicle using a Paypal credit card.
According to the arrest affidavit, after Deeds was contacted about the transaction, he was still unsure if he wanted to pursue criminal prosecution.
In February 2022, Deeds showed Deputy Jake Doolin the Paypal card, saying he obtained the card from Mikaelyan after confronting him. Deeds also showed the deputy the card’s billing statement that included numerous charges from 2020 at restaurants in Steamboat, a hardware store, R and B Cars and payments to Solid Core, which, according to Deeds, is a company operated by Mikaelyan.
Deeds reported Mikaelyan also created a “shopping cart” for True North Furs through Shopify, a software program that allows businesses to sell products through a variety of digital platforms. According to Deeds, Mikaelyan made himself the owner of the shopping cart and then listed Deeds as staff, disabling Deeds from making changes to the website.
According to the arrest affidavit, Deeds said Mikaelyan was holding the True North Furs website “hostage” until a camper trailer where Mikaelyan had resided on Deeds’ property was returned to him.
At that point, Deeds decided he wanted to pursue a criminal case against Mikaelyan, saying Mikaelyan was no longer allowed on his property. About a week later, Deeds reported that Mikaelyan had changed the ownership of his company’s website and then deleted it altogether. Deeds reported to Deputy Doolin that Mikaelyan did not create the site but managed the website and marketing.
According to the arrest affidavit, the PayPal debit card statement showed over $10,000 had been charged from True North Furs into the Paypal account, while a little over $12,000 had been paid out of that account.
Deeds worked with a private company to restore access to his electronic accounts in the following months until June 2021, when the sheriff’s office obtained a search warrant for records pertaining to the Google, PayPal and Shopify accounts known in this case.
The sheriff’s office met with Deeds’ accountant in July 2021, who told authorities the financial irregularities were limited to the True North Furs account.
The balance sheet for the True North Furs account showed 96 transactions through the PayPal account from July 2020 to September 2021, showing $65,186 of deposits and $87,095 of credits or payments out, showing a total balance of minus $21,951.
Deeds claimed that the payments made through the PayPal account were made without his knowledge or permission.
According to the affidavit, Mikaelyan refused to meet with investigators. He was was arrested and booked into the Routt County Jail on Oct. 24.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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