By Fred Shuster
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A Tarzana couple awaiting sentencing after their conviction in an $18 million COVID-19 relief fraud case allegedly cut their ankle monitoring bracelets and went on the lam, according to the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and Marietta Terabelian, 37, were found guilty in June of scheming to submit fraudulent loan applications under which they and others obtained more than $18 million in Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program funds they used to put down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert and purchase jewelry and other high-end items.
They were scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4 in Los Angeles federal court.
In a tweet late Tuesday, the FBI said the couple are considered fugitives and asked the public for any information on their whereabouts.
Federal authorities said the couple have been missing since Sunday, Aug. 29.
Attorneys for the pair did not immediately respond to requests for comment from City News Service.
Ayvazyan, Terabelian, and two relatives were found guilty at trial of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ayvazyan was also found guilty of aggravated identity theft.
The jury determined the defendants must forfeit bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three homes and about $450,000 in cash, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
“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 US Attorney Tracy Wilkison said following the trial. “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.”
Evidence showed the defendants used bogus or stolen identities to submit fraudulent applications for the loans. In support of the applications, the defendants also submitted sham documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration, including fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records.
The couple used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes and to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Prior to the verdict, four accomplices pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.
The FBI asks that anyone who has information on the couple call (310) 477-6565.