Four California Residents Found Guilty of Scheming to Fraudulently Obtain Millions of Dollars in COVID-19 Relief Programs
A federal jury convicted four California residents on June 25, 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.
After an eight-day trial, Richard Ayvazyan, 42, his wife Marietta Terabelian, 37, and his brother Artur Ayvazyan, 41, all of Encino, were each 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 was also found guilty of two counts of aggravated identity theft and Artur Ayvazyan was found guilty of one count of aggravated identity theft. Vahe Dadyan, 41, of Glendale was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 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, or synthetic identities – including the created identities of “Iuliia Zhadko” and “Viktoria Kauichko” – to submit fraudulent applications for the loans. In support of the fraudulent loan applications, the defendants also submitted false and fictitious documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration (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-19 relief funds.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13.
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. The court has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 13. Grigoryan faces up to 32 years in federal prison.
- Edvard Paronyan, 40, of Granada Hills, pleaded guilty on June 11, to one count of wire fraud. The court has scheduled sentencing for Aug. 30. Paronyan faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
- 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. The court has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 27. Dadyan faces up to 52 years in federal prison.
- Arman Hayrapetyan, 41, of Glendale, pleaded guilty on June 21, to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The court has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 20. Hayrapetyan faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid and Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison of the Central District of California made the announcement.
The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General investigated this matter.
Trial Attorney Christopher Fenton of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Paetty, Brian Faerstein, and Catherine Ahn of the Central District of California are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Boyle of the Central District of California is handling the forfeiture.
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. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.