Fraudulent Los Angeles COVID fugitives extradited from Montenegro
Two Los Angeles convicts who escaped to a life of European luxury under false names after running a pandemic fraud ring were extradited from Montenegro to the United States on Thursday, Montenegrin authorities said.
US Marshals Service agents arrested fugitives Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian at the airport in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, local police said.
The couple, who abandoned their three teenage children at the Tarzana mansion they bought in part with stolen COVID relief funds, were captured in February in the small mountainous nation just up Greece’s Adriatic coast.
They had traveled there on a private jet with fake Mexican passports and were living under false identities in a beachfront villa with a swimming pool in the picturesque Bay of Kotor.
Ayvazyan and Terabelian were convicted in June 2021 of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and related federal crimes for stealing bailout loans intended for small businesses struggling to survive the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with six accomplices, they applied for 151 loans from mostly fictitious businesses in the San Fernando Valley, using fictitious payrolls and false tax returns to secure loans in a scam that raised $18 million.
Ayvazyan was sentenced in absentia last year to 17 years in prison, and Terabelian to six years.
Their scam was one of the most sinister of the scammers who took advantage of the government’s rush to give businesses billions of dollars in pandemic relief. The Justice Department has charged more than 1,500 people in COVID fraud cases totaling more than $1.1 billion.
After cutting off their ankle monitoring bracelets and fleeing in August 2021, Ayvazyan and Terabelian lived quietly for almost six months as Roberto Niko De Leon and Nataly Rose Perez Garcia in Tivat, a Montenegrin village known for its luxury shopping. luxury and its port of super-yachts.
The FBI discovered they were in Montenegro when Ayvazyan attempted to withdraw funds from one of the bank accounts he had opened for a bogus business as part of the COVID scam.
Montenegrin police arrested Terabelian at a salon in Tivat while she was getting hair extensions, then found Ayvazyan hours later at a hotel in Budva, a nearby nightlife hub.
They also arrested Tamara Dadyan, a third fugitive in the COVID scam, who was at the hotel with Ayvazyan, her brother-in-law. Montenegrin police said they had no information to release on the pending US request for Dadyan’s extradition.
US authorities did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the extradition of Ayvazyan and Terabelian.
Los Angeles Times