North Hollywood Man to Plead Guilty to Charges that He Smuggled Greased-Up Kilograms of Cocaine to Australia in Household Products
LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges that he conspired to smuggle approximately 40 kilograms of cocaine – concealed and suspended in grease – in household products and mailed it to Australia, then laundered up to $3.5 million of the illicit drug proceeds.
Vardges Markosyan, 47, of North Hollywood, whose aliases include “David Petrosov,” “Giani Oncho,” and “Laram Narman,” agreed to plead guilty to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Markosyan admitted in his plea agreement that, from December 2014 until October 2016, he was involved in a drug conspiracy that procured approximately 40 kilograms (88.2 pounds) of cocaine and shipped it to Australia. The cocaine would be suspended in grease and placed in empty household products such as log splitters, air compressors, tankless water heaters, lampstands, and air conditioners, according to the plea agreement.
The shipped packages were sent via commercial carrier to Australia, where they were distributed, court documents state. Markosyan admitted to conducting “test runs” of drug shipment methods by sending packages of household products by commercial carrier to Australia to evaluate whether the drugs could be shipped without detection inside similar packages.
For example, Markosyan admitted that in March 2015, a co-conspirator sent 9.87 kilograms (21.76 pounds) of cocaine hidden in a log splitter to Australia, sent by FedEx. In advance of this package, Markosyan sent a “test run” for a similar log splitter that was sent to Australia, according to court documents.
Markosyan also admitted in his plea agreement that he conspired with his sister, Iren Markosyan, to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking, between May 2014 and January 2019. Markosyan admitted that he used his sister’s name – with her knowledge – to purchase properties in North Hollywood and Studio City. Markosyan and his sister obtained hard-money loans secured against these properties, and enjoyed and spent the net proceeds of these loans after transferring them to various accounts, according to court papers. In December 2018, Markosyan received $234,442 from the sale of the North Hollywood property.
Markosyan has agreed to forfeit to the U.S. government his interest in the Studio City property, held in his sister’s name, as well as a 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat also held in her name.
The charges to which Markosyan has agreed to plead guilty carry a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison. The charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
For her role in the scheme, Iren Markosyan pleaded guilty on May 13 to one felony count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. She has agreed to forfeit the Studio City property, to a judgment in the amount of $234,442, and her interest in the 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat. She will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison at her sentencing hearing.
This matter was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Glendale Police Department, and State of California Department of Health Care Services Investigations Branch, and is being conducted with the support of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The United States wishes to thank its foreign partners, the New South Wales Police Force, the New South Wales Crime Commission, and the Australian Federal Police, for their assistance in the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Puneet V. Kakkar of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section, and Assistant United States Attorney Katharine Schonbachler of the Asset Forfeiture Section.