LOS ANGELES – A Glendale man was sentenced today to 78 months in federal prison for laundering at least $3 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance (UI) benefits that his accomplices fraudulently obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arman Nikogosyan, 45, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered him to pay $3 million in restitution.
Nikogosyan pleaded guilty on March 27 to one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Starting in 2020 and continuing until December of that year, Nikogosyan became a member of a conspiracy to launder fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Nikogosyan arranged to receive the cash proceeds of the unemployment fraud scheme in which his co-conspirators applied for UI benefits in the names of other people and then used debit cards issued by a major bank to withdraw the fraudulently obtained funds.
In 2020, Congress expanded UI benefit amounts and duration and expanded UI eligibility to more workers in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Employment Development Department (EDD) is the agency that administers UI benefits in California.
Nikogosyan knew the cash was proceeds from the jobless benefits fraud and had some of it deposited under assumed names, including those of shell companies. Nikogosyan then had the illicitly obtained funds sent abroad and used to purchase gold in order to conceal their source, ownership and location.
During this conspiracy, Nikogosyan laundered at least $3 million in fraudulently obtained proceeds that his co-conspirators brought to him in cash.
In December 2020, law enforcement seized $194,497 in cash from Nikogosyan’s residence that was proceeds of the fraudulent scheme.
“When confronted with the COVID pandemic that has claimed the lives of almost seven million persons worldwide to date, [Nikogosyan] instead saw an opportunity to bilk taxpayers out of the emergency funds their government generously made available to protect those who lost their jobs,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “Such criminal opportunism during a global health and economic emergency is egregious.”
In separate cases, some of Nikogosyan’s co-conspirators received prison sentences for their crimes:
- Arman Aghasinyan, 23, of Glendale, is serving a 46-month federal prison sentence for withdrawing for accomplices $2.9 million in bogus unemployment insurance benefits from ATMs; and
- Arayik Avetisyan, 23, of Glendale, is serving a federal prison sentence of 36 months for withdrawing from ATMs $1.4 million in fraudulent EDD benefits and delivering the cash to his co-conspirators.
The FBI and the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Brown of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.
Anyone with information about allegations of fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.