Four Los Angeles-area residents were found guilty of fraudulently obtaining millions in COVID-19 relief funds that they used to get luxury homes, gold coins, jewelry and other items, federal officials announced Tuesday.
Forty-two-year-old Encino man Richard Ayvazyan, his wife 37-year-old Marietta Terabelian, his brother 41-year-old Artur Ayvazyan, and Vahe Dadyan, 41, of Glendale were all convicted in the case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.
Officials say the defendants used fake or stolen identities — including the made-up identities of “Iuliia Zhadko” and “Viktoria Kauichko” — to submit fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan relief funds.
The four and other codefendants in the case ended up getting their hands on more than $18 million in relief funds, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The money was used as down payments for luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert. The rest went toward buying luxury watches, jewelry, gold coins, diamonds, designer handbags, clothing, fine imported furniture and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, according to federal officials.
“Seeking quick riches, the defendants stole federal funds intended to help Americans harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage left in its wake,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement.
All four defendants face decades in prison.
They were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Richard Ayvazyan and his brother were additionally convicted of aggravated identity theft, while Dadyan was also found guilty of one count of money laundering.
The defendants will have to forfeit their bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three residential properties and about $450,000 in cash, the federal jury found.
Tamara Dadyan, 39, the wife of Artur Ayvazyan and cousin of Vahe Dadyan, had already pleaded guilty to criminal charges in this case, along with three others believed to be part of a disaster relief loan fraud ring.
“The verdicts in this case are the first in this district resulting from a pandemic-related fraud scheme, and we are prepared to bring additional defendants to justice as we continue our efforts to safeguard our nation’s disaster-relief programs,” Wilkison said.