RIVERSIDE, California – A San Gabriel Valley man was found guilty by a jury today of federal criminal charges, including conspiring with his employee to hire a hitman to kill two men – one who opposed him in litigation and the other who represented one of his companies in bankruptcy.
Arthur Raffy Aslanian, 54, of La Cañada Flintridge, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. The federal jury also found Aslanian guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit arson, one count of attempted arson, and one count of arson of a building used in interstate commerce.
According to evidence presented at a five-day trial, Aslanian conspired with Sesar Rivera, 41, of North Hollywood, Aslanian’s employee, to hire a hitman to murder two people – identified in court documents as “M.Y.” and “S.E.”
M.Y. was a lawyer who represented Aslanian in a bankruptcy proceeding in which Aslanian had prevailed but then refused to pay over $261,000 in legal fees and expenses to M.Y.’s law firm. In April 2022, M.Y. sent a demand letter to Aslanian requesting to mediate the dispute and stating he was prepared to sue Aslanian if the mediation failed.
S.E. was a litigant who defeated Aslanian in court after Aslanian tried to take possession of the Brentwood home in which S.E.’s parents lived.
In April 2022, Rivera – Aslanian’s employee at the time – met with an individual, who according to trial testimony was a gang member and convicted felon. Rivera told the individual that a real estate businessman named “Arthur” wanted to pay him to kill M.Y. and S.E.
In July 2022, Rivera again met with the individual and said “Arthur” wanted the killing done as soon as possible. Rivera showed the individual information about M.Y. The individual secretly recorded a portion of this July 2022 in-person meeting on his phone and provided a copy of the recording to law enforcement.
Rivera also promised the individual that Aslanian would pay $20,000 for the murder once Rivera had photographic proof the murder had been committed.
On August 10, 2022, Rivera again met with the individual and told him to focus on murdering S.E. before killing M.Y. On August 19, 2022, Rivera used the Facebook Messenger application to send the individual a multimedia message with a screenshot of victim S.E.’s Facebook profile, including S.E.’s picture and business name, to assist the individual in locating and murdering S.E.
Law enforcement contacted and warned M.Y. and S.E. of the murder plots.
On September 7, 2022, law enforcement detained and questioned Rivera, who later agreed to cooperate with them.
Aslanian was arrested shortly after a September 15, 2022 meeting in which Rivera showed him a staged murder photograph of S.E.
In a separate incident, Aslanian, through Rivera, paid an individual a few hundred dollars for successfully setting fire to a vacant unit at a rental property in North Hollywood own by Aslanian so the remaining tenants would be forced to leave the property.
United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal scheduled an October 2 sentencing hearing, at which time Aslanian will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for each murder-for-hire-related count and up to 20 years in federal prison for each arson-related count, and a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison for each arson count.
Rivera pleaded guilty on March 27 to one count of conspiracy and one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each count at his September 25 sentencing hearing.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin J. Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, Kevin B. Reidy of the Major Frauds Section, and Eli A. Alcaraz of the Riverside Branch Office are prosecuting this case.