Their lawyer had successfully convinced a judge they weren’t a flight risk.
A Los Angeles couple who defrauded the government of $21million worth of PPP loans during the pandemic are on the run, according to the FBI.
Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and Marietta Terabelian, 37, pled guilty to setting up a web of fake San Fernando Valley businesses to secure 151 separate installments of Covid relief money — which they then spent on several homes, jewelry and other luxury goods.
Ayvazyan — the leader of the group which also included six other family members and friends — and his wife were convicted on June 25 by a federal jury in Los Angeles.
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Investigators found they had used stolen identities to set up bank accounts, submitted phony payrolls and forged tax returns to claim emergency funds meant to help sinking businesses as the coronavirus torpedoed the economy.
Prosecutors wanted him to await his sentence in jail without bail, warning the judge he was a flight risk, The LA Times reported. But Ayvazyan’s attorney, Ashwin J. Ram, insisted his client could be safely released, as long as he wore a GPS ankle monitor.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson sided with the lawyer, ordering the convict to remain at his $3.25-million house in Tarzana, which incidentally, he had bought with the money he stole, and which the government is currently trying to confiscate, through a court-approved forfeiture.
“While there is simply no reason for Ayvazyan to flee anywhere, it would be impossible for him to do so when he cannot even leave his driveway without the government’s knowledge,” the attorney argued. “And if Ayvazyan wanted to flee, he would have done so already.”
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Last week, the couple requested a six-week postponement on their October 4th sentencing, and once again, prosecutors warned they were going to make a break for it.
“Defendants also have access to millions of dollars in stolen money the government has not yet been able to trace, furthering their potential means of escape and resources to evade law enforcement detection,” they claimed.
They pointed out that the couple had already been convicted of mortgage fraud a decade ago (but were not sentenced to prison), were currently awaiting trial on separate state mortgage fraud charges, and had a history of using fake or stolen identities.
While the judge denied the extension request — it only seemed to move up the inevitable.
On Tuesday, the FBI tweeted that the couple had bolted: “The pair allegedly cut monitoring bracelets & are considered fugitives,” it wrote, asking the public for information:
The couple’s three teenage children reportedly did not flee with them.
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