EIGHT PEOPLE IN L.A. CHARGED IN $20 MILLION COVID-19 RELIEF FUND FRAUD, FEDS SAY

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Source: MEGA

Mar. 15 2021, Updated 11:12 a.m. ET

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Eight people were charged in a multi-million dollar conspiracy as part of a disaster-relief loan scam that used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury items, federal officials say. 

The purchases included homes and to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags and clothing, cryptocurrency and securities.

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Manuk Grigoryan, 27, of Sun Valley; Arman Hayrapetyan, 38, of Glendale; Edvard Paronyan, 40, of Granada Hills; and Vahe Dadyan, 41, of Glendale, were each charged in a superseding indictment filed in the Central District of California with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering on March 12, 2021.

Grigoryan, Hayrapetyan, and Paronyan were each charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and eight counts of bank fraud, totaling $21.9 million, according to the IRS.

In addition, Grigoryan and Hayrapetyan were charged with one count of aggravated identity theft. Vahe Dadyan was charged with six counts of wire fraud, three counts of bank fraud, and one count of money laundering.

These four joined four others who were charged with similar offenses in November 2020.

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Richard Ayvazyan, 42, Marietta Terabelian, 36, Artur Ayvazyan, 40, and Tamara Dadyan, 39, all of Encino, were charged in an indictment filed in the Central District of California with one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. Richard Ayvazyan was also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft on Nov. 18, 2020.

In the scheme, the group submitted at least 35 fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $5.6 million in COVID-19 relief guaranteed by the Small Business Administration through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, according to the IRS.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired as part of a disaster relief loan fraud ring based in and around Los Angeles.

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The defendants used fake, stolen, or synthetic identities, including “Iuliia Zhadko” and “Viktoria Kauichko,” to submit fake loan applications to the SBA and federally-insured financial institutions. 

The defendants reportedly submitted fraudulent loan applications in their own names, using fake businesses, including fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records.

The CARES Act was enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the program, and $10 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses through the EIDL program.

In the months since the CARES Act passed, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. 

The agency has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained funds, as well as numerous real-estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds nationwide.

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