In a shocking scandal, a federal court clerk has been accused of leaking confidential files, including information disclosing details of contemplated law enforcement raids on Armenian street gangs.

As reported by the ABA, Nune Gevorkyan (“Gevorkyan”), a district court criminal intake clerk, and her husband, Oganes Koshkaryan (“Koshkaryan”) were arrested and charged with conspiring to obstruct justice, a violation of Title 18, United States Code Sections 371 and 1512. The charges were filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, and if convicted, both face up to twenty years in prison.

The Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force (EOCTF), a law enforcement group comprised of nine different local law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County, as well as the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, first initiated an investigation of several high profile members of the Armenian Power gang in 2006. The Armenian Power gang, an organized crime syndicate which primarily includes members of Armenian descent, is believed to be involved in a variety of criminal activities, including kidnapping, extortion, bank fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, distribution of narcotics and various other criminal acts.

The FBI alleges that Gevorkyan accessed sealed indictments prior to February 2011 raids across Southern California which led to the arrests of over 70 associates of the Armenian Power gang. After looking at the indictments Gevorkyan allegedly passed the information on to her husband, Oganes Koshkaryan (“Koshkaryan”). Koshkaryan allegedly acted as an intermediary, promising clients he could get confidential information from the courts in exchange for cash.

The FBI first learned of the leaks after a defendant who was seeking a reduced sentence informed them that the raids were known to some of the gang members who were arrested. The cooperating defendant told the FBI that he had fled his home prior to the arrests because of the information Koshkaryan allegedly had provided to him. The defendant later surrendered. A second defendant also fled for his or her safety based on Koshkaryan’s alleged information.

On at least two occasions, Koshkaryn alleged delivered information from the sealed court records to an FBI informant. This past month, the informant allegedly asked Koshkaryan about a person currently under investigation, and was told the person would be arrested soon. Koshkaryan provided additional information regarding another defendant, and was paid $2000. Record searches completed by FBI allegedly confirmed that Gevorkyan had accessed sealed court documents pertaining to the ongoing investigations. Specifically, checks of electronic court records allegedly confirmed that Gevorkyan had accessed the sealed court records pertaining to the named individuals shortly after the undercover had delivered the names to Koshkaryan.

According to a story in the Glendale News-Press, law enforcement officials view the arrest of Gevorkyan and Koshkaryan as exposing a major “betrayal within the system.” According to the story, law enforcement officials are  concerned that “organized crime is infiltrating areas we wouldn’t have expected,” putting officer’s safety in danger, and allowing defendants under investigation to possibly destroy evidence and threaten criminal investigations. The EOTCF has already had to move up operations for fear that the suspects might flee or destroy incriminating evidence.

The arrest of Gevorkyan and Koshkaryan may be emblematic of a more widespread FBI crack down on insider threats. In recent years, the FBI has put an increasing premium on detecting such threats and preventing the significant harm such threats cause. These threats are often difficult to detect because an insider, as an employee with legitimate access, may not initially appear to be doing anything wrong. However, such insiders can cause significant damage by stealing company information or products to benefit another organization. The FBI has provided detailed tips on its website to detect insiders who may compromise company assets.

We will continue to keep you apprised of future developments in this case, as well as other FBI efforts to reduce the growing threat posed by rogue insiders. The case also highlights why some legal commentators and courts believe that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should be broadly construed to prevent insider data theft.