Today we have a bit of a different episode for you all, and one we hope you’ll enjoy! We are talking about an article by the CPA Practice Advisor, The Top 10 IRS Criminal Cases of 2021. If you are a true crime or unsolved mysteries fan, this episode might just be right up your alley!
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:35 – IRS Criminal Investigations
- 05:19 – What did the Ayvazyan family do?
- 19:19 – The Trial
- 22:44 – The Sentencing
- 25:43 – Where are they now?
- 30:14 – Conclusion
IRS Criminal Investigations
Many people know that the IRS investigates fraud, but you may not know that the IRS has a criminal division to investigate criminal case. They even have their own Twitter handle, @IRS_CI, where they release facts and updates on their cases. The year 2021 obviously was challenging for everyone, and was no exception for the IRS. Things were very unclear during this challenging year, and many people were not 100% clear on the rules due to ambiguity and continual changes.
What did the Ayvazyan family do?
The Ayvazyan family received sentences ranging from 17.5 years in prison to 10 months of probation for crimes ranging from bank and wire fraud to aggravated identity theft. It was truly a family affair, and they schemed to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.
There were 8 convicted conspirators, all related Ayvazyan family members in on the scam, and when FBI agents raided one of the homes, they found fake identification documents, credit cards for phony businesses, checkbooks in the names of fraudulent loan applicants and notary stamps and seals belonging to state and federal courts.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants 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, the defendants also submitted false and fictitious documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration (SBA), including fake identity documents, tax documents and payroll records.
The defendants 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. The conspirators sought to fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
In June 2020, at the end of an eight-day trial, a federal jury found Richard Ayvazyan, Terabelian, and Artur Ayvazyan guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Richard Ayvazyan and his brother were also convicted of aggravated identity theft.
The jury further found that Richard Ayvazyan and Terabelian must forfeit bank accounts, jewelry, watches, gold coins, three residential properties and approximately $450,000 in cash. Dadyan pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She named her husband and his brother as co-conspirators. Her husband, in turn, blamed Dadyan for the fraud when he took the stand at his trial. Both Dadyan and her husband were also awaiting trial on unrelated state mortgage fraud charges.
In August 2021, Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian cut their ankle monitoring devices and absconded prior to their sentencing hearing. The couple fled and left a note for their three teenage children stating, “We will be together again one day. This is not a goodbye but a brief break from one another,” they wrote. The children — ages 13, 15, and 16 — are living with their grandparents, Ayvazyan’s attorney said.
Just recently, in November 2021, United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson handed down prison sentences to the scammers:
- Richard Ayvazyan, who was ordered to serve 17 years;
- Marietta Terabelian, Richard Ayvazyan’s wife, who was sentenced to six years; and Artur Ayvazyan, Richard Ayvazyan’s brother, who was ordered to serve five years in federal prison.
Dadyan’s attorney, Jerry Kaplan, urged the judge to stagger the sentences so one parent could continue raising the children, but Wilson declined to do so.
“The defendants used the COVID-19 crisis to steal millions of dollars in much-needed government aid intended for people and businesses suffering from the economic effects of the worst pandemic in a century,” said United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “These sentences reflect our office’s determination to root out and punish wrongdoers who use national emergencies to defraud the government and the American taxpayer.”
At the sentencing hearing, Wilson called Ayvazyan an “endemic, cold-hearted fraudster with no regard for the law.” He said he couldn’t recall a fraud case conducted in such a “callous, intentional way,” a Justice Department statement said the couple’s children were “visibly distraught” in the courtroom on Monday as they listened to the judge sentence their parents and uncle.
Tamara Dadyan, a 42-year-old Encino real estate broker, was sentenced in December to nearly 11 years in prison for her role in the eight-member family fraud ring, but was allowed to remain free pending her Jan. 28 surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She apparently dropped out of sight just before she was due to turn herself in in January.
Where are they now?
The FBI offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of Richard Ayvazyan and Terabelian, who allegedly cut their tracking bracelets on August 29 and went on the run while awaiting sentencing in this case. Judge Wilson sentenced them in absentia, and they remained fugitives from justice, and ended up on the FBI Most Wanted List.
Update – February 2022
Captured in Montenegro – Department of Justice is seeking their extradition. “I can confirm that the three fugitives wanted for their roles in a scheme to defraud the government of several million dollars in COVID relief funds, two of whom fled after conviction and were sentenced to federal prison, and a third who fled after failing to report to serve her sentence in federal prison, were arrested in the country of Montenegro,” said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice. “We are seeking their extradition,” she said. Unlike its neighbors, Serbia and Croatia, Montenegro does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.