Disconnected bracelets and abandoned children: in the USA they are looking for a Russian-speaking couple who stole millions from COVID-19 relief funds

Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Marietta Terabelian were sentenced to prison for participating in a large-scale fraudulent scheme related to financial assistance in connection with COVID-19. They turned off their electronic tracking bracelets and fled their California home, abandoning three teenage children. CNN reported in more detail.

She turned off the bracelets and left the children: they are looking for a Russian-speaking couple who stole millions from COVID-19 relief funds

Photo: Shutterstock

They left a note for children 13 , 15 and 16 years old.

“Someday we'll be together again, & # 8211; said there. & # 8211; This is not goodbye, but a short break from each other. ”

It was at the end of August. Almost three months later & # 8211; and five months after their conviction in June & # 8211; the pair has not been found yet. The FBI is looking.

This did not stop the judge from sentencing 43-year-old Ayvazyan and 37-year-old Terabelian to 17 and 6 years in prison, respectively. Prosecutors said that they and other employees implemented a scheme to steal more than $ 20 million from aid funds earmarked for small businesses during the pandemic.

“The defendants used the COVID-19 crisis to steal millions dollars in much-needed aid for people and businesses suffering from the economic fallout from the worst pandemic in a century, ”& # 8211; said US Attorney Tracy Wilkeson.

Another federal prosecutor said their case was the first in the country to go to trial.

The stolen money fueled a wasteful lifestyle

Aivazian couple and brother, Artur Ayvazyan, 41, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit banking fraud, electronic fraud and money laundering at trial in June. Richard Ayvazyan and his brother were also convicted of aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents and evidence presented in court, they used fake or stolen identities, including the names of deceased people and exchange students who briefly visited the United States many years ago to file fake applications for approximately 150 federal loans to assist pandemic.

The Federal Attorney's Office has reported that in order to support fraudulent claims for assistance, they have submitted fraudulent identification documents along with falsified tax and payroll forms to lenders and the Small Business Administration.

The couple, along with Ayvazyan's brother and five accomplices, used the proceeds to buy mansions in three cities in Southern California & # 8211; Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert. She also acquired gold, diamonds, furniture, Harley-Davidson and other luxury items.

When they were convicted, he lost three houses and luxury goods, as well as bank accounts and approximately $ 450,000 cash.

“When our country was most vulnerable, these people only thought about how to fill their pockets, & # 8211; Ryan Corner, special agent for the IRS, said after the verdict. & # 8211; These sentences reflect the seriousness of these crimes. ”

It is unclear if Richard Ayvazyan was the head of the scheme, but of the eight people convicted so far, he received the longest sentence & # 8211; 17 years. No one else was sentenced to more than six years in prison. His brother Artur Ayvazyan received five years.

At his sentencing, US District Judge Stephen Wilson called Richard Ayvazyan “a heartless con man who does not abide by the law” and a man who “considers fraud an achievement.”

Three the couple's children were present in the courtroom to witness the sentencing of their parents and uncle.

Ayvazyan's lawyer says that is not all

< p class = "p1">The whereabouts of Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian remain unknown. The FBI is offering a $ 20,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.

Ashwin J. Ram, Aivazian's lawyer, said prosecutors painted an exaggerated picture of his client's involvement.

>

“It should be noted that the government has repeatedly stated that this case is worth $ 18 or $ 20 million, & # 8211; said Ram. & # 8211; However, at the hearing on the case, the court found that Richard Ayvazyan was only responsible for losses of $ 1.5 million. This is far from the theory of the government in the case. ”

Ram said that he did not speak with Ayvazyan since he fled in August. He believes that if his client was in court, he would have explained his version of the story.

“Unfortunately, Ayvazyan was not present to share his vision of the situation with the court”, & # 8211 ; he said.

Ram also said that the couple's family believes they may have been kidnapped by other accomplices.

“Ayvazyan was accused of conspiring with dozens of people, and only a few were charged. So if he really is the boss, someone might want to silence him, ”& # 8211; he said. Adding that in addition to telling their kids, the couple's farewell note also mentioned the threats they face & # 8211; “Something about them leaving to avoid danger for the family.”

He called on the government to investigate.

Terabelian's lawyer Ryan Fraser described her as “a loving mother and devoted wife who tirelessly supported not only her three children, but also her parents, mother-in-law and sister.” He added that “Judge Wilson acknowledged this in his verdict, awarding significantly less than one-third of the prosecutor’s time limit.”

Fraser declined to answer further questions about his client or the fraudulent credit scheme.

Information about Arthur Ayvazyan's lawyer is not yet available.

The children's guardians hoped to send them to Armenia.

According to Ram, the couple's three children are in the care of their grandmothers and a court-appointed guardian.

He said that their guardians had recently submitted an emergency application for passports for them to travel to Armenia, where they have relatives.

According to him, the guardians hoped to send the children to Armenia to avoid the appearance in the circus media around the sentencing of their parents, but no passports were issued.

Ram also said that he objected to the court sentencing Richard Ayvazyan and Terabelian in absentia, adding that he wanted the hearing was adjourned until they reappear.

Five more southern Californians, including Arthur Ayvazyan's wife, have pleaded guilty to various charges. Four of them were sentenced to terms ranging from probation to six years in prison.

The verdict for Arthur Ayvazyan's wife is scheduled for December 6.