Panorama City man allegedly obtained $860K in COVID-19 aid for sham company, deposited funds in own account: DOJ

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A Panorama City man faces charges after allegedly receiving more than $860,000 for a bogus sewing business from the Paycheck Protection Program, most of which he deposited into his personal bank accounts, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Arman Manukyan, 49, was charged with a count apiece of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He’s believed to have fled the United States for Europe.

In June, Manukyan submitted two applications to Bank of America for $1.7 million in PPP loans on behalf of Argo Global, Inc., and Express Wiring, both shell companies registered to the defendant, the complaint alleges.

He’s accused of submitting false tax documents that purported to show wages and taxes for Argo Global, which he claimed was a sewing business that employed 73 workers, according to the news release. The documents were sent first to Bank of America, then the Small Business Administration.

An underwriting packet didn’t include the names of employees or associates, and a virtual office address in Beverly Hills was listed as its place of business, according to the affidavit.

Argo Global was subsequently approved for a loan totaling more than $867,000, prosecutors said.

After receiving the money, Manukyan allegedly transferred the bulk of the funds to two personal accounts, according to the release.

But one of the accounts was frozen due to suspicious activity, prosecutors said. After being contacted by a bank investigator, he allegedly contradicted his loan application, saying he was going to start a limousine business with the money, the affidavit stated.

Meantime, Manukyan had also submitted another loan application to Bank of America, seeking $884,748 for Express Wiring. Federal prosecutors also referred to that businesses as a “shell company,” with an address in Glendale.

The second application was rejected by the Small Business Administration, which indicated it had either been submitted too late or that there were no more funds to allocate, the release stated, citing the affidavit.

The following month, a seizure warrant was executed on the bank accounts, and some $866,000 was recovered.

On July 22, a search was was executed at the defendant’s residence where investigators found “multiple debit cards used for unemployment benefits from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) that were in the names of different people,” the release read.

He allegedly told authorities that he found two of the debit cards on the street. He opted to keep them, but said he didn’t use the money, the release read. Authorities said they recovered another $118,474 from the debit cards that were linked to him.

On Sunday, law enforcement said they received information that Manukyan had fled the country, boarding a flight from Mexico City to Paris, where he would then head to Minsk, Belarus, according to the release.

Manukyan could face a maximum possible sentence of 32 years in federal prison if convicted as charged.

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