Grab The Money, Ditch The Kids!

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Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian were members of a Los Angeles-based fraud ring who engaged a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million via the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan COVID-19 relief funds. The couple used dozens of fake, stolen or synthetic identities, including names belonging to elderly or deceased people and foreign exchange students, in order to submit fraudulent applications for about 150 PPP and EIDL loans.

Ayvazyan and Terabelian embraced the good life with their fraudulently obtained funds.  The couple owned 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, clothing, and luxury cars. However, authorities caught on to their scheme quickly. In June 2021, Ayvazyan and Terabelian’s fraud was discovered, and they were convicted by a federal jury of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

But our fraudsters did not want to give up the good life. While free on bond, the couple sliced off their ankle bracelets and flew the coop. The couple chartered a plane (with COVID funds!) to take them out of the United States, bringing their dog with them but not their children! Yes. Our fraudsters left children, then 16, 15, and 14, behind!

With forged Mexican passports, the couple hid hide in Montenegro where they lived the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Under their new identities they rented a couple of apartments in a super yacht marina and a villa on the waterfront. Needing transportation between the places, they had a Range Rover and a BMW shipped over from California to Montenegro. Yet they still left the kids behind.

Nine months after they fled, the FBI agent who oversaw the case found out that somebody had tried to log into one of the bank accounts that Richard Ayvazyan had set up for one of these fake companies that got the COVID loan. The couple have been brought back to Los Angeles and will start their sentences immediately. No opportunity to cut ankle bracelets this time!

Shout out to the FBI agent who didn’t ease off and noticed the ATM withdrawal.

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on an article “Fugitive California couple convicted in massive Covid fraud extradited to the U.S.” published by NBC News on November 18, 2022

A California couple who fled the country after being convicted in a multimillion-dollar Covid relief scam have been extradited from Montenegro, the Justice Department said Friday.

Richard Ayvazyan, 44, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 38, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, approximately nine months after they were captured in the small, mountainous country in southeastern Europe. They are expected to appear at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.