Fugitive Couple Fled Prior to Sentencing in $21 Million COVID-19 Relief Scam Case

A couple is on the run after they were found guilty in a $21 million COVID-19 relief fraud case. They were set to be sentenced on October 4.

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A California couple is on the run after they were convicted in a $21 million COVID-19 relief fraud case.

NBC Los Angeles reports that 43-year-old Richard Ayvazyan and 37-year-old Marietta Terabelian allegedly cut off their ankle monitoring bracelets and fled. They were awaiting their sentencing, which was set for Oct. 4 in Los Angeles federal court.

The FBI tweeted on Tuesday to let the public know that the couple “are considered fugitives” and to call if anyone has information on their location.

The couple has been missing since Sunday. In June, they were found guilty of scheming to submit fraudulent loan applications, which helped them and two relatives acquire $21 million from the Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. They used that money to purchase lavish homes in Tarzana, Glendale, and Palm Desert, as well as jewelry and other luxury items.

In order to obtain the money, the defendants used fake or stolen identities on their loan applications, as well as bogus documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration.

Ayvazyan, Terabelian, and their relatives were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ayvazyan was additionally found guilty of aggravated identity theft.

“Seeking quick riches, the defendants stole federal funds intended to help Americans harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage left in its wake,’” Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said after the trial. “The verdicts in this case are the first in this district resulting from a pandemic-related fraud scheme, and we are prepared to bring additional defendants to justice as we continue our efforts to safeguard our nation’s disaster-relief programs.’”

The jury decided the accused must surrender about $450,000 in cash, three homes, bank accounts, jewelry, and more.

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