Three additional San Fernando Valley residents have been arrested in connection to a scheme that allegedly submitted more than 150 fraudulent loan applications seeking nearly $22 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
The alleged scheme involved funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Three of the new defendants were arrested Thursday as the result of a 33-count superseding indictment that charges a total of eight defendants with using fake, stolen or synthetic identities to submit fraudulent applications for loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Relief Program (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES Act, prosecutors said.
The suspects arrested are Manuk Grigoryan, 27, of Sun Valley; Edvard Paronyan, 40, of Granada Hills; and Vahe Dadyan, 41, of Glendale, according to the indictment.
All three were arraigned on Thursday in United States District Court in Downtown Los Angeles. During court appearances that continued into the evening, a United States Magistrate Judge released all three on bond and ordered them to stand trial on May 4, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A fourth new defendant charged in the superseding indictment – Arman Hayrapetyan, 38, of Glendale – is still being sought by federal authorities, according to prosecutors.
The superseding indictment, which was filed on Tuesday, adds the four new defendants to an indictment filed in November that led to the arrests of co-defendants Richard Ayvazyan, Marietta Terabelian, Artur Ayvazyan and Tamara Dadyan.
According to the superseding indictment, the eight defendants conspired together, and with others, as part of a disaster-relief loan fraud ring that submitted fraudulent loan applications that often included fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records.
The eight defendants “submitted and caused the submission of at least 151 fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications seeking a total of at least $21.9 million in PPP and EIDL proceeds from the SBA and at least 11 financial institutions, and received a total of at least $18 million in PPP and EIDL loan proceeds from the SBA and financial institutions,” the indictment states.
The defendants allegedly used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert. They also used the funds to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags and clothing, cryptocurrency, and securities, according to the indictment.
All of the defendants named in the superseding indictment are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each defendant is named in various other counts in the indictments which allege wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
The superseding indictment alleges that Richard Ayvazyan and Tamara Dadyan committed crimes after they were released on bond in this case. The superseding indictment further alleges that Richard Ayvazyan continued to use his alias “Iuliia Zhadko” to launder the proceeds of the scheme, including by using the money to buy cryptocurrency and securities. As alleged, Tamara Dadyan repeatedly lied to a bank as part of a scheme to unlawfully obtain disaster-relief funds that had been frozen in an account that she had fraudulently opened using a stolen identity.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form here.
Burbank Police Seeking Additional Victims Of Scammer
The Burbank Police Department (BPD) detectives are seeking additional possible victims of a suspect who scammed multiple bank customers.
On May 24, a victim came to the BPD to report a check fraud scam who had been approached by the suspect in the Logix Federal Credit Union parking lot on Hollywood Way, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway, spokesperson for the department.
The suspect, Gevorg Adoyan, 29, of North Hollywood, explained he had reached his cash-out limit and asked the victim to negotiate a check for him so that he could gamble at a casino.
Adoyan offered the victim a percentage of the check-in exchange for his assistance.
The victim agreed to complete the transaction and deposited the check into his account. The victim then withdrew cash from his account and gave it to the suspect. The negotiated check was later returned as fraudulent.
Through their investigation, detectives learned of 11 additional victims who were scammed by the same suspect at the same location.
A search warrant was executed at Adoyan’s residence where detectives recovered additional fraudulent checks, according to Brimway.
Adoyan was arrested and booked for forgery and grand theft, according to investigators.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 12 counts of theft by false pretenses against Adoyan and was he was arraigned on July 14.
Detectives believe Adoyan may have scammed additional victims. The BPD is asking any additional victims or anyone with information about these incidents to contact the Burbank Police Department Investigations Division at (818) 238-3210.
Woman Killed After Van Nuys Stabbing, Suspect Arrested
A woman was killed after a Van Nuys stabbing Wednesday morning with one suspect taken into custody.
Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to the 17300 block of Matilija Avenue in Van Nuys for the report of a possible homicide according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
When officers arrived, they were directed to a nearby house on the 13800 block of Valerio Street, where a body with multiple stab wounds, according to detectives.
The victim, identified as 53-year-old Ana Guardado, was declared dead at the scene, police said.
After further investigation, detectives arrested Jose Sierra, 49, for murder, according to the LAPD.
As of Wednesday, the motive of the incident is unknown, according to investigators.
Sierra was booked at Van Nuys Jail with a $2,000,000 bail.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call Valley Bureau Homicide Division, Detectives R. Secor or S. Kim at (213) 216-0171.
Those wishing to remain anonymous should call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go directly here.
Over $1 Billion In Marijuana Plants Seized In Antelope Valley Drug Bust
Over $1 billion of marijuana was seized in an Antelope Valley drug bust last month — the largest illegal cannabis enforcement operation in Los Angeles County history.
The joint operation on June 8 resulted in a total of approximately 373,000 plants and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana, worth an estimated street value of $1.193 billion, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the High Desert, your days are over and we’re coming for you,” Villanueva said Tuesday.
In 2020, there were an estimated 150 illegal cannabis operations in the Antelope Valley, growing to over 500 in 2021, a majority of which are connected to drug cartels, according to the sheriff.
After receiving numerous complaints from residents, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department took action, partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as several local law enforcement agencies.
Cartel members were threatening residents and stealing millions of gallons of water from the already limited supply in the desert, according to Villanueva.
Last month, over 400 personnel in the joint operation served dozens of search warrants at 200 locations across the High Desert.
At the end of the 10-day operation, a total of 131 people were arrested. In addition, 33 firearms $20,000 in cash and several vehicles were seized.
The number of greenhouses at each grow varied from eight to 15. The largest site, which is believed to be the largest illegal cannabis operation in L.A. County, had 74 grow tents spanning over 10 acres.
Chloe Hakim, an environmental scientist for Fish and Wildlife, said illegal pesticides and fertilizers have seeped into streams and groundwater in the area.
Two bears were found dead in the area of the grows, which law enforcement officials attribute to the use of the pesticides.
There has also been an increase in violence in connection to the operations, including two murders, according to Villanueva.
“Violent crime is part of the trade for the cartels and has been associated with these grows,” he said. “It was our obligation to put a stop to this.”
Congressman Mike Garcia surveyed the grows from a helicopter a month before the bust, and hosted a town hall with community members from Pearblossom.
“The testimonies that we heard from those local residents were absolutely tragic. They were threatened on a daily basis from cartel members and bad actors,” Garcia said.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger is working toward policies to eradicate the illegal operations, that are “plaguing the Antelope Valley and has the potential to spread throughout Los Angeles County.”
“What began as water theft, has exploited to become the infiltration of organized crime groups in the Antelope Valley who are operating internationally,” Barger said.
The supervisor has authored several motions to increase enforcement efforts on both illegal grows and unlicensed cannabis dispensaries.
Villanueva said operations are going to continue in the coming months, to further ensure the eradication of illegal cannabis grows in the Antelope Valley.