Tarzana couple convicted in $18M coronavirus fraud captured after 6 months on the run
LOS ANGELES - Three members of an Encino-based fraud ring who went on the lam after being convicted of stealing more than $18 million in COVID-19 relief loans were captured in Montenegro and federal authorities are seeking their extradition, a senior law enforcement official told City News Service Wednesday.
Ringleader Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife and co-defendant Marietta Terabelian, 37, had been missing since Aug. 29. The Encino couple were convicted at trial, but were granted release to await sentencing.
Tamara Dadyan, 42, an Encino real estate broker, was sentenced in December to nearly 11 years in prison for her role in the eight-member family fraud ring, but was allowed to remain free pending her Jan. 28 surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She dropped out of sight just before she was due to surrender.
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"I can confirm that the three fugitives wanted for their roles in a scheme to defraud the government of several million dollars in COVID relief funds, two of whom fled after conviction and were sentenced to federal prison, and a third who fled after failing to report to serve her sentence in federal prison, were arrested in the country of Montenegro," said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice.
"We are seeking their extradition," she said.
Further details of the apprehension were not immediately available and the present status of the three fugitives was not clear. Unlike its neighbors, Serbia and Croatia, Montenegro does not have an extradition treaty with the United States so it's uncertain how the process could come about.
Calls to attorneys listed as having once represented the defendants were not immediately returned.
Law enforcement officials -- who had posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to the couple's arrest -- believed Ayvazyan and Terabelian were traveling together.
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The defendants submitted more than 150 phony loan applications under which they obtained more than $18 million in Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program funds, which were used to make down payments on homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert, and to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, expensive watches, imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Dadyan pleaded guilty to one federal count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. She later asked the judge to be allowed to withdraw her plea, but the request was denied.
Federal authorities believe Ayvazyan and his wife, facing the possibility of years behind bars, removed their location monitoring devices, left a note for their children, and absconded together from their Encino home. The following day, a Los Angeles judge signed bench warrants for their arrest.
Ayvazyan was sentenced in absentia to 17 years in federal prison and his wife was handed a six-year term, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The couple were convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ayvazyan was also found guilty of aggravated identity theft.
Prior to the verdict in the Ayvazyan trial, four relatives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.
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