By Fred Shuster
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — An Encino real estate broker has become the third convicted member of an $18 million COVID-19 benefits fraud scheme to go on the lam in the case involving a married couple who absconded after cutting off their tracking bracelets last summer, authorities have confirmed.
Tamara Dadyan, 42, was sentenced in December to nearly 11 years in prison for her role in the eight-member family fraud ring, but was allowed to remain free pending her Jan. 28 surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She apparently dropped out of sight just before she was due to turn herself in.
Scheme ringleader Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife and co-defendant Marietta Terabelian, 37, have been missing since Aug. 29. The Encino couple had been convicted at trial, but were granted release to await sentencing.
“We are actively seeking their whereabouts,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Monday, Feb. 7.
Law enforcement — which posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to the couple’s arrest — believes Ayvazyan and Terabelian are traveling together.
A call to Dadyan’s attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned.
The defendants submitted more than 150 phony loan applications under which they obtained more than $18 million in Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program funds, which were used to make down payments on homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert, and to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, expensive watches, imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Dadyan pleaded guilty to one federal count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. She later asked the judge to be allowed to withdraw her plea, but the request was denied.
Federal authorities believe Ayvazyan and his wife, facing the possibility of years behind bars, removed their location monitoring devices, left a note for their children, and absconded together from their Encino home.
The following day, a Los Angeles judge signed bench warrants for their arrest.
Ayvazyan was sentenced in absentia to 17 years in federal prison and his wife was handed a six-year term, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
The couple were convicted 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.
Prior to the verdict in the Ayvazyan trial, four relatives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.