A federal judge in Los Angeles sentenced a North Hollywood man to nine years in prison for smuggling more than 88 pounds of cocaine inside household products sent to Australia and laundering up to $3.5 million with his sister, prosecutors announced Friday.
Vardges Markosyan, who went by aliases such as “David Petrosov” and “Giani Oncho,” shipped packages of cocaine via commercial carrier by suspending the drugs in grease inside household products like air conditioners, water heaters and lampstands, according to court filings.
Markosyan, 47, played a role in a drug conspiracy that sent about 40 kilograms of cocaine to Australia, where it held a wholesale value federal prosecutors said totaled at least $7 million. The drugs were smuggled there over a nearly 2-year period between December 2014 and October 2016.
He performed “test” runs to make sure a package would reach the other continent undetected — once sending a log splitter to Australia shortly before a co-conspirator used FedEx to ship nearly 10 kilograms of cocaine, or more than 21 pounds, in March 2015, according to prosecutors.
Markosyan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to engage in money laundering in November 2019.
According to prosecutors, he and his sister, Iren Markosyan, laundered the drug money and ran a scheme securing loans against homes bought between May 2014 and January 2019 with Vardges Markosyan purchasing the properties in North Hollywood and Studio City — in Iren’s name.
The 41-year-old North Hollywood woman was aware of her brother purchasing properties in her name, prosecutors said. In March 2019, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
She faces up to 20 years in federal prison when she is sentenced later this year, prosecutors said.
“Markosyan and his sister obtained hard-money loans secured against these properties, and spent the net proceeds of these loans after transferring them to various accounts,” reads a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
During one instance, in December 2018, the sale of a North Hollywood property netted $234,442 for Vardges Markosyan. Federal prosecutors said the siblings together laundered up to $3.5 million.
“Because these loans essentially liquidated the illicit proceeds that were used to purchase these homes, there was never an intent to pay these loans back,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
In another scheme, they worked together to have Vardges Markosyan fraudulently receive Medi-Cal benefits by lying and saying he had no income, according to court filings.
As part of his guilty plea, he has agreed to forfeit his interest in a Studio City property, a 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat to the U.S. government. All of the assets are held in Iren’s name.