Fraudster couple on the run sentenced to 23 years in jail after stealing $20million in Covid funds


A Los Angeles fraudster couple who were convicted of trying to steal more than $20million in Covid relief funds have been jailed for 23 years even though they are still on the run.  

Richard Ayvazyan, 43, was sentenced Monday in absentia to 17 years and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, was given six years behind bars for conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.

Ayvazyan’s brother, Artur Ayvazyan, 41, was sentenced to five years. 

The three Encino residents used dozens of phony or stolen identities – including those of elderly or dead people and foreign exchange students who briefly visited the United States – to submit applications for some 150 federal Covid business relief funds.

They backed up the applications with false tax documents, and payroll records, officials said.

FBI agents are pictured raiding the $3.25million home of Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian, which they bought with stolen Covid relief funds, in November 2020

FBI agents are pictured raiding the $3.25million home of Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian, which they bought with stolen Covid relief funds, in November 2020 

Richard Ayvazyan

Marietta Terabelian

Ayvazyan (left), 43, was sentenced Monday in absentia to 17 years and his wife, Terabelian (right), 37, was given six years behind bars

Instead of going to struggling businesses during the pandemic, the millions received were used for down payments on luxury homes and to buy ‘gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle,’ the US attorney’s office said. 

In June, the trio were convicted of conspiracy, bank and wire fraud.

But in August, Ayvazyan and Terabelian cut their tracking bracelets while awaiting sentencing and went on the run from the $3.25million home they bought with the stolen relief funds, authorities said. 

They left a note for the three teenage children they abandoned saying: ‘We will be together again one day. This is not a goodbye but a brief break from each other.’ 

Days after their disappearance, they were seen on CCTV entering Ayvazyan’s mother’s house but they quickly left before police arrived.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to their arrests.

Four other people have pleaded guilty to various charges in the case. A fifth person awaits sentencing but has asked to withdraw her guilty plea.

During the sentencing hearing, US District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said he couldn’t recall a fraud case conducted in such a ‘callous, intentional way without any regard for the law’.

Ayvazyan, pictured outside court in June before he went on the run, was described as the ringleader of the fraud plot

Ayvazyan, pictured outside court in June before he went on the run, was described as the ringleader of the fraud plot

Sentencing was carried out in front of the couple’s children who were visibly distraught upon hearing their parents’ crimes, with the judge describing how legitimate businesses were deprived of the relief they needed to sustain themselves in the pandemic.

Wilson singled out Ayvazyan as the ringleader and called him an ‘endemic cold-hearted fraudster’ with no regard for the law. 

He added: ‘If given the opportunity, he would concoct another fraud, because the way he spoke of this fraud indicates that that is his way of life.’

The judge said the ‘fragrant’ fraud could deter lawmakers from granting future bailouts out of fear of being ripped off again.

Prosecutors sought 29 years in prison for Ayvazyan which would have been the longest sentence for anyone in the US for a federal pandemic loan fraud case.

But his lawyer said he deserved no more than six years and described him as a family man, a churchgoer and legitimate businessman. 

The attorney also said Ayvazyan’s family believes he and his wife are not on the run but were abducted.

Prosecutors said there is no evidence to support this, and pointed to a recent emergency passport application for the couple’s children to travel to Armenia.

The FBI previously raided the home in November 2020 and Terabelian was seen throwing a bag of more than $450,000 into the bushes in their backyard.

Wilson has ordered the husband and wife to pay a fine of $50,000 but has not yet decided on whether to approve the government’s request for more than $16million in restitution. 



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