Three of the defendants charged with running a credit card scam and using the proceeds to run the Corvallis Cannabis Club made their first appearances in federal court in Eugene on Wednesday.
Ararat Manukyan, Yeghishe Nazaryan and Gevorg Tashchyan appeared in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. An Armenian translator participated in the hearing by phone. The defendants were represented by federal public defenders Craig Weinerman and Bryan Lessley.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gavin Bruce read the charges the defendants are facing, which include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. They also are charged with manufacturing or distributing marijuana, or possessing with the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense marijuana, and conspiracy to do the same. Each faces up to 50 years behind bars if convicted.
Manukyan, Nazaryan and Tashchyan were arrested Tuesday. The three defendants are charged along with six other people who authorities say have not yet been arrested. Authorities have not said why those six defendants have not been apprehended.
All are accused of running a credit card fraud scheme and using the proceeds to establish and run illegal marijuana grows, as well as operate the Corvallis Cannabis Club. They also are accused of transporting some of the marijuana grown in Corvallis for sale outside of Oregon.
Manukyan is set to appear in court Thursday for a release hearing. Nazaryan and Tashchyan are scheduled to appear for status conferences to determine if they have retained counsel.
According to court records, Nazaryan, along with Mariam Gevorkova, owns the Corvallis Cannabis Club. According to prosecutors, Gevorkova's sister, Lilit Gevorkova, and her husband, Manukyan, work at the Corvallis Cannabis Club and were involved in the credit card fraud.
Additionally, authorities allege Issa J. Barsha used proceeds from the credit card fraud to start a marijuana grow operation in Corvallis. Also facing charges for their alleged involvement in the credit card scheme are Akmaljon Radjapov, Shokhrukh Tashpulatov and Davit Sukiasyan, according to federal court documents.