BY FRED SHUSTER | City News Service
LOS ANGELES – Family members of a San Fernando Valley couple believed by the FBI to have cut their tracking wristbands and on the run while awaiting conviction for their roles in a $ 18 million covid- 19 frauds waited, claiming the couple had been kidnapped – apparently to prevent them from disclosing the identities of unaccounted co-conspirators, court documents received today show.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $ 20,000 in exchange for information leading to the arrest of Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife and co-defendant, Marietta Terabelian, 37.
Federal authorities believe the couple, who faced the possibility of years of imprisonment, removed their site surveillance devices and escaped from investigative surveillance together on Aug. 29. The next day, a Los Angeles federal judge signed an arrest warrant for the couple’s arrest.
Defense attorneys wrote in the latest City News Service filing that the couple’s family members believe Ayvazyan and Terabelian were abducted and did not voluntarily flee their Encino home.
Because of these concerns, the missing couple’s lawyers are asking the government to allow inspection of an alleged video that may show Ayvazyan and Terabelian voluntarily returning to their home on September 2, several days after they disappeared from custody.
If the couple cannot be seen on the alleged video, “then there is no reliable evidence of voluntary escape. It is not credible to claim that Ayvazyan and Terabelian escaped voluntarily without leaving any traces such as the use of credit lines, electronic accounts or vehicles, ”wrote Ayvazyan attorney Ashwin J. Ram.
The attorney asks the court not only to give the defense the opportunity to watch the video, but to put the hearing on November 15 on hold “if and until it can make formal determinations of involuntary kidnapping, voluntary escape or other disappearances” .
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the government would “take any theories put forward by the defense to court if necessary.” A US attorney’s spokesman did not want to comment on the defense files.
The police believe Ayvazyan and Terabelian are traveling together.
The couple and two relatives were found guilty in June of fraudulent loan applications in which they and others received more than $ 18 million in funding from the Paycheck Protection and Disaster Loan for Economic Violation Program, with which they take down payments for luxury homes in Tarzana. made to Glendale and Palm Desert, and to purchase other high-end items such as gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, imported furniture, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Prosecutors have requested increases in penalties for allegedly escaping scrutiny and because many of the plan’s victims were considered “vulnerable”.
Ayvazyan “sacrificed the elderly (including people with disabilities), the deceased, and foreign exchange students who had only spent months in the United States years ago and now lived thousands of miles away in a foreign land,” federal prosecutors wrote.
The defendants were convicted of conspiracy to engage in bank fraud and wire transfer fraud, wire transfer fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ayvazyan was also found guilty of grave identity theft.
The jury ruled that the defendants would lose bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three houses and about $ 450,000 in cash, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Evidence showed that the defendants used false or stolen identities to submit fraudulent applications for credit. Defendants also provided the lenders and the Small Business Administration with bogus documents, including fake IDs, tax documents and pay slips, in support of the claims.
In the run-up to the verdict, four accomplices pleaded criminally guilty.
The FBI has asked anyone with information about the couple to call 310-477-6565.
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