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Press Release

California Men, Who Admitted Conspiring To Steal Shipments From Tyson Fresh Meat Packaging Plant In Amarillo, Are Sentenced

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas

AMARILLO, Texas — Three men, all residents of California, who admitted their involvement in a conspiracy to steal interstate shipments of meat from Tyson Fresh Meat Packaging Plant in Amarillo, Texas, were sentenced this afternoon by U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

Ruben Ashikyan, 56, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and fined $3000.  Levon Ashikyan, 31, of Glendale, Calif., who is Ruben Ashikyan’s son, was sentenced to 12 months in in federal prison.  Grigor Darmandjian, 56, of North Hollywood, Calif., was also sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.  Each defendant pleaded guilty in May 2013 to one count of conspiracy to steal interstate shipments.  All defendants are in custody.

According to documents filed in the case, the FBI began an investigation in August 2011 after learning that a load of beef was stolen from a meat packing plant in Amarillo.  The theft occurred when someone, who had stolen the identity of a legitimate trucking company, picked up the load from the plant but failed to deliver the load to its intended destination in California.  The investigation revealed that there had been more than 28 similar cargo thefts that occurred between April 2011 and February 2013, and 19 of the 28 were meat thefts.  The cargo’s value varied from $30,000 to $200,000 for each theft.

In February 2013, the FBI was contacted about two loads of fresh meat as Monarch Trading Company had contacted MTS Transportation to have the loads, valued at approximately $175,324, picked up at the Tyson plant in Amarillo and delivered to a cold storage facility in Vernon, Calif.  MTS posted the loads on a commonly-used website and a trucking company, Expo Transportation & Logistics, Inc. from Muskegon, Michigan, replied.  Believing this was a theft attempt, MTS contacted the FBI, and in an effort to apprehend the thieves, a sting operation was arranged.

A few days later a Volvo tractor pulling a white refrigerated trailer arrived at the Tyson security gate.  There was a sign on the tractor that read, “Expo Transportation, Inc., Muskegon, MI, MC-389238 and USDOT-895024.”  The van was driven by Ruben Ashikyan; Levon Ashikyan and Darmandjian were passengers.  After Ruben and Levon Ashikyan emerged from the tractor and completed the Tyson paperwork, they drove the truck to the plant’s warehouse office, where they were arrested.  The investigation revealed that the tractor’s license plate did not belong to the Volvo and the trailer’s California license plate did not belong to the trailer.  Inside the tractor was a fictitious California registration card and there was an “Expo Transportation” sign on the Volvo tractor that covered different MC and USDOT numbers.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Texas Rangers, the Dumas Police Department and the Potter County Attorney’s Office.  Tyson Foods and MTS Transportation provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christy Drake and Vicki Lamberson prosecuted.

Updated June 22, 2015