LOS ANGELES – A Southern California couple who fled to Montenegro to avoid serving lengthy prison sentences in a large COVID-relief fraud scheme were returned to the United States last night after more than a year as fugitives.
Richard Ayvazyan, 44, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 38, both former residents of Encino, were extradited by Montenegro and arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday night. They are expected to appear in United States District Court in Los Angeles this afternoon.
In June 2021, Ayvazyan and Terabelian were convicted by a federal jury of leading a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds. While free on bond, Ayvazyan and Terabelian are believed to have fled after cutting their tracking bracelets on August 29, 2021.
In November 2021, they were sentenced in absentia. Ayvazyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Terabelian was sentenced to six years in prison. U.S. authorities later determined the couple had fled to Montenegro.
Ayvazyan and Terabelian were members of a Los Angeles-based fraud ring that engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds. Ayvazyan and Terabelian used dozens of fake, stolen, or synthetic identities – including names belonging to elderly or deceased people and foreign exchange students who briefly visited the United States years ago and never returned – to submit fraudulent applications for approximately 150 PPP and EIDL loans.
In support of the fraudulent loan applications, Ayvazyan and Terabelian also submitted false and fictitious documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration (SBA), including fake identity documents, tax documents, and payroll records. Ayvazyan and Terabelian then used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale, and Palm Desert. They also used the funds to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Source: Press Release