A North Hollywood man has agreed to plead guilty to smuggling dozens of kilograms of cocaine by suspending them in grease, hiding them inside household items like air conditioners and lampstands and then mailing them to Australia, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Vardges Markosyan, who authorities said uses aliases such as “Giani Oncho,” “David Petrosov” and “Laram Narman,” admitted to trafficking about 40 kilograms of coke — or just over 88 pounds — by placing the drugs inside empty objects such as air compressors, tankless water heaters and log splitters. The cocaine was sent via commercial carrier to Australia, where it was then distributed.
His role in the drug ring spanned from December 2014 to October 2016.
Markosyan, 47, also admitted to conspiring with his sister to launder up to $3.5 million in illegal drug money between May 2014 and January 2019. Iren Markosyan pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments on May 13 and could face up to 20 years in federal prison when she’s sentenced.
As part of a plea deal, Vardges Markosyan is pleading guilty to federal counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for the drug charge alone.
Federal prosecutors said Markosyan could face a maximum sentence of life in prison when he’s sentenced.
He has also agreed to forfeit to the U.S. government his interest in a Studio City property that is in his sister’s name, a 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat also held in her name. His sister has agreed to forfeit the property, a judgment in the amount of $234,442, and her interest in the Carver boat.
Markosyan admitted in his plea agreement to doing test runs for future cocaine shipments by sending household products by commercial carrier to Australia, evaluating whether similar packages could later be shipped with drugs hidden inside.
In March 2015, prosecutors said, a co-conspirator of his sent 9.87 kilograms, or nearly 22 pounds, of cocaine hidden inside a log splitter via FedEx to Australia. Markosyan had already sent a similar log splitter to Australia in a prior test run.
To launder the drug money, Markosyan used his sister’s name to buy properties in North Hollywood and Studio City — transactions made with her knowledge, according to federal authorities.
The pair obtained hard-money loans that were secured against the properties and “enjoyed and spent the net proceeds of these loans after transferring them to various accounts,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California.
Federal prosecutors said Markosyan received $234,442 from the sale of a property in North Hollywood in December 2018.
The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS, Glendale Police Department and investigators with the California Department of Health Care Services. Law enforcement agencies from abroad also assisted the investigation including New South Wales Police Force, the New South Wales Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police.