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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 16, 2014

Leader Of Armenian Alien Smuggling Ring Arraigned On Federal Charges

The alleged leader of an Armenian alien smuggling ring was arraigned on an indictment unsealed today in federal court. Grigor Chatlayan, 44, is charged with coordinating and directing an international alien smuggling organization that brought undocumented Armenian nationals illegally into the United States in exchange for thousands of dollars. Chatalyan, of North Hollywood, California, was arrested on Saturday as he applied for entry into the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry. He was arraigned in federal court this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick.

The indictment makes it clear that Chatalyan led an international smuggling enterprise whereby Armenian nationals were smuggled from Armenia to the United States by way of Moscow, Russia and Cancun, Mexico. In exchange, Armenian nationals were made to pay up to $18,000 each to be brought into the United States. Chatalyan’s smuggling group arranged for the Armenian nationals to fly into Moscow, Russia, where they were given fraudulent Russian passport to travel to Cancun, Mexico. Once in Mexico, the smuggling organization would transport the Armenian nationals to Tijuana, Mexico. Chatalyan and his co-conspirators would then procure valid U.S. legal permanent resident or passport cards from within the United States and attempt to use those documents to pass imposter Armenian nationals through the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry.

According to the indictment, Chatalyan coordinated these activities with several co-conspirators, including two others charged in the indictment with Chatalyan: Varduhi Avagyan, 42, and Meri Avetsiyan, 40, both of Glendale, California. Avagyan and Avetisyan were arrested on November, 1, 2013 attempting to smuggle two Armenian nationals into the country.

All three are charged with conspiracy and bringing in illegal aliens for financial gain. In addition, Chatalyan is charged with aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Chatalyan and his co-conspirators face a maximum penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. If convicted on all charges, Chatalyan could be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of seven years in custody.

DEFENDANT    
Grigor Chatalyan Age: 44 North Hollywood, California
Varduhi Avagyan Age: 42 Glendale, California
Meri Avetsiyan Age: 40 Glendale, California
 
CHARGES

Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371

Bringing in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, 8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(2)(B)(ii)

Aiding and Abetting Aggravated Identity Theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A and 18 U.S.C. § 2

 
INVESTIGATING AGENCY

U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations

*Indictments and complaints are not evidence that the defendant committed the crime charged.  All defendants are presumed innocent until the United States meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.     

Updated July 23, 2015