Four L.A. County Residents Found Guilty of Fraudulently Obtaining Millions of Dollars from COVID-Relief Programs
LOS ANGELES (STL.News) A federal jury has found four Los Angeles-area residents guilty of criminal charges for scheming to submit fraudulent loan applications seeking millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.
At the conclusion of an eight-day trial, the following defendants were found guilty on June 25:
Richard Ayvazyan, 42, of Encino;
Richard Ayvazyan’s wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, of Encino;
Richard Ayvazyan’s brother, Artur Ayvazyan, 41, of Encino;
Vahe Dadyan, 41, of Glendale.
All four defendants were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Richard Ayvazyan also was found guilty of two counts of aggravated identity theft. Artur Ayvazyan also was found guilty of one count of aggravated identity theft. Vahe Dadyan also was found guilty of one count of money laundering.
On June 28, the jury found the defendants must forfeit bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three residential properties and approximately $450,000 in cash.
According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants used fake, stolen and synthetic identities – including the created identities of “Iuliia Zhadko” and “Viktoria Kauichko” – to submit fraudulent applications for PPP and EIDL loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under federal law. In support of the fraudulent applications, the defendants often submitted false and fictitious documents to lenders and the SBA, including fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records.
The defendants then used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert. They also used the funds to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The conspirators obtained more than $18 million in COVID-relief funds.
United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson has scheduled a September 13 sentencing hearing, at which time each defendant will face decades in federal prison.
Prior to the verdict, the following defendants pleaded guilty to criminal charges in this case:
Manuk Grigoryan, 46, of Sun Valley, pleaded guilty on June 7 to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Judge Wilson has scheduled a September 13 sentencing hearing, at which time Grigoryan will face a statutory maximum sentence of 32 years in federal prison.
Edvard Paronyan, 40, of Granada Hills, pleaded guilty on June 11 to one count of wire fraud. He will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison at his August 30 sentencing hearing.
Tamara Dadyan, 39, of Encino, Artur Ayvazyan’s wife and Vahe Dadyan’s cousin, pleaded guilty on June 14 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. She will face up to 52 years in federal prison at her September 27 sentencing hearing.
Arman Hayrapetyan, 41, of Glendale, pleaded guilty on June 21, to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will face up to 20 years in federal prison at his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for September 20.
“Seeking quick riches, the defendants stole federal funds intended to help Americans harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage left in its wake,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “The verdicts in this case are the first in this district resulting from a pandemic-related fraud scheme, and we are prepared to bring additional defendants to justice as we continue our efforts to safeguard our nation’s disaster-relief programs.”
The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Scott Paetty and Catherine S. Ahn of the Major Frauds Section, Assistant United States Attorney Brian R. Faerstein of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section, Assistant United States Attorney Daniel G. Boyle of the Asset Forfeiture Section, and Trial Attorney Christopher Fenton of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting this case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.