According to published reports, the FBI has offered a $20,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of a couple in Los Angeles who were convicted in a COVID-19 relief scheme worth multimillions.
Richard Ayvazyan (43), and Marietta Terabelian (37), were convicted of trying to steal more that $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan COVID-19 relief funds. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release
According to FBI, the couple disappeared in August as they waited to be sentenced. CBS News reported.
According to a DOJ statement, Monday’s sentence of Judge Stephen Wilson of U.S. District Court Central District of California to Ayvazyan in Absentia was 17 years in federal prison and Terabelian 6 years.
Artur Ayvazyan, 41, Ayvazyan’s brother, who was also involved in the scheme, was sentenced to five years in prison, the DOJ said.
Prosecutors said the defendants used dozens of fake, stolen, or synthetic identities — including names belonging to elderly or deceased people and foreign exchange students who briefly visited the United States years ago and never returned — to submit fraudulent applications for approximately 150 PPP and EIDL loans, the DOJ said in a statement.
Officials said they backed up the applications with fake and fictitious documents lenders and the Small Business Administration (SBA), including fake identity documents, tax documents, and payroll records, the DOJ stated.
The couple used the fraud money to make payments on luxury homes in Tarzana Glendale and Palm Desert. They also used the funds to purchase gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
U.S. district Judge Stephen V. Wilson, during the sentencing hearing, stated that he cannot recall a case of fraud in such a setting. “callous, intentional way without any regard for the law,”CBS reported that the U.S. attorney’s offices stated these words.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said: “The defendants engaged in a scheme to steal critical relief funds intended to assist small businesses during the pandemic,”He said. “This case, involving an egregious example of pandemic relief fraud, was the was the first in the country to go to trial.”
Polite added “The DOJ, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to use every available tool to combat and prevent criminals from exploiting national emergencies for their personal benefit.”
Judge Wilson previously sentenced Manuk Ghoryan, 28, from Sun Valley to six-years in prison; Edvard Ponyan 41, of Granada Hills was sent to 30 month in prison on September 27; Vahe Davyan 42, of Glendale was sent to one year and one days in prison Oct. 18; Arman Hayrapetyan 39, of Glendale to 10 months probation Oct. 18. Tamara Dadyan (42), of Encino is set to be sentenced Dec. 6.
The family of the fugitives said they believe they were kidnapped, according to court documents. CBS News reported that a judge rejected this theory and stated that there was no evidence suggesting they were kidnapped.
Both of them have various aliases, and they have lived in many Los Angeles neighborhoods including Tarzana and Encino. CBSLA reported.
Ayvazyan, originally from Armenia is described as a 5 foot 10 inch tall white man with brown eyes and black hair. He owns a white Range Rover with California license plates 7ZAB185 and white Toyota Camry 2005 with California license plates 5JYK335.
Terabelian is described as a white woman from Los Angeles, 5 feet 6 inches tall, between 130 and 140 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair that could be dyed blonde, dark brown, or black. A white Toyota Camry is her vehicle.
Anyone with information about Richard Avyazyan or Marietta Terabelian’s whereabouts or the case is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles FBI office at (310) 477-6565.