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Press Release

Three Women Plead Guilty In Armenian Alien Smuggling Ring

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO, CA – Three Glendale, California women pleaded guilty today in federal court to smuggling Armenian nationals into the United States as part of an international smuggling organization.

Varduhi Avagyan, 42, Meri Avetsiyan, 40, and Maria Yanakopulus, 57, all admitted their roles in a transcontinental conspiracy to bring undocumented Armenian nationals illegally into the United States in exchange for thousands of dollars.

As part of their guilty pleas, the three admitted to conspiring to traffic Armenian nationals from Armenia to the United States by way of Moscow, Russia and Cancun, Mexico. The Armenian nationals were charged up to $18,000 each to be brought into the United States. The three would procure valid U.S. entry documents and attempt to bring the Armenian nationals into the United States as imposters to those documents.

Avagyan and Avetisyan were arrested on November, 1, 2013 attempting to smuggle two Armenian nationals into the country. Yanakopulus was arrested on September 5, 2014.

All three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bring in illegal aliens for financial gain and encouraging and inducing illegal aliens. They are scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello on May 11, 2015.

DEFENDANTS   Case Number: 14CR1646-MMA
Varduhi Avagyan Age: 42 Glendale, California
Meri Avetsiyan Age: 40 Glendale, California
Maria Yanakopulus Age: 57 Glendale, California

Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371              Five year maximum sentence, $250,000 fine


Homeland Security Investigations

Updated July 23, 2015