‘Til Fraud Do Us Part 

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A San Fernando Valley, California man, his wife, and his brother have been sentenced to two years in federal prison for running an elaborate COVID-19 fraud scheme. Richard Ayvazyan, 43; Marietta Terabelian, 37 (Richard’s wife); and Artur Ayvazyan, 41 (Richard’s brother); schemed to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.

The defendants used stolen (and sometimes just straight-up FAKE) identities to submit fraudulent applications, totaling up to around 150 PPP and EIDL loans. These identities often belonged to the elderly, deceased, and foreign exchange students. (Just wait – they didn’t stop there.) 

To support the vast amount of fraudulent loan applications this group was submitting, they also submitted false documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration. (This handy crew covered everything, from fake identity documents to bogus tax documents and false payroll records.) The group even went as far as to create fake San Fernando Valley businesses, attaching these fraudulent payrolls and forged tax returns to numerous false loan applications.

This trio used these fraudulent funds to support a luxury lifestyle (Think: vacation homes, gold coins, diamonds, luxury watches, designer handbags).  (Did I forget to mention the Harley-Davidson motorcycle?) These fraudsters took advantage of the vulnerability caused by the COVID-19 crisis, scheming to steal millions of dollars of government aid from people and businesses that actually needed it.

After a grueling eight-day trial, a federal jury found the three defendants guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The two Ayvazyan brothers also received an additional conviction of aggravated identity theft. (Richard) Ayvazyan and Terabelian must forfeit bank accounts, jewelry, various residential properties (and a whopping $450,000 in cash). 

Richard was ordered to serve 17 years; Marietta was sentenced to six years; and Artur was ordered to serve five years in federal prison. Judge Wilson previously sentenced four defendants in this case, their sentences ranging from 10 months of probation to 30 months in prison.

These prison terms may sound like justice was served for these deplorable COVID-19 fraudsters, but this is far from the truth. (Watch out, plot twist ahead.) Two of the three, Richard and his wife Marietta, were sentenced in absentia, and remain fugitives from justice. (The pair allegedly made a run for it while awaiting their sentencing date. They are said to have cut their tracking bracelets.)

The FBI is currently looking into the whereabouts of fugitives and will not stop until they are taken into custody and forced to pay for their crimes. (Since they’re offering up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of these two – I may have to look into that myself.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “San Fernando Valley Family Members Sentenced to Years in Prison for Fraudulently Obtaining Tens of Millions of Dollars in COVID Relief,” dated November 16, 2021.

LOS ANGELES – Three members of a San Fernando Valley family have been sentenced – two of them in absentia after they fled justice following their convictions at trial – to years in federal prison for scheming to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.

On Monday, United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson handed down prison sentences to the Encino residents:

  • Richard Ayvazyan, 43, who was ordered to serve 17 years;
  • Marietta Terabelian, 37, Richard Ayvazyan’s wife, who was sentenced to six years; and
  • Artur Ayvazyan, 41, Richard Ayvazyan’s brother, who was ordered to serve five years in federal prison.

 

 

 

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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.