WOODLAND HILLS/LOS FELIZ—On Thursday, November 12, federal authorities arrested nine defendants, who allegedly laundered millions of dollars derived from health care fraud and tax fraud schemes.
Two indictments allege that a total of 10 defendants were involved in the operation that laundered over $30 million in tax refunds from 7,000 fraudulent tax returns. The tax returns were filed using stolen identities from American taxpayers. Seven defendants were arrested Thursday, November 12, and there are three still being sought.
Authorities also arrested two additional defendants who are being charged in two other indictments. One involves a short sale scheme involving a $2 million residence, that was forfeited earlier this year to the United States, and one involving a car leasing scam. There is also an additional defendant in the real estate scam who is a fugitive.
Woodland Hills resident Gagik Airapetian, 62, is the leader of the schemes described in the money laundering indictments. According to the indictments, Airapetian directed others to use altered passports from the Republic of Armenia to open bank accounts to launder funds from health care fraud and tax fraud. Conspirators allegedly used the altered passports to open over 500 bank accounts.
The defendants arrested for the money laundering indictments include Airapetian, Moses Seraydarian, 54, of Northridge, Tigran Galstyan, 48, of Sylmar, Stepan Terakopyan, 35, of Granada Hills, Karen Pogosian, 49, of Van Nuys, Petros Terakopyan, 64, of Sun Valley, and Haroutioun Demirdjian, 54, of North Hollywood.
Authorities are still searching for Albert Andriasov, 28, of Las Vegas, Nikoghos Petrosyan, and David Asoyan, 29, of Granada Hills.
Reseda resident Ara Sahakyan, 54, was arrested in accordance with the indictment alleging the car scheme. He leased three vehicles by falsely claiming to be a chief financial officer earning $189,000 per year.
Los Feliz resident Armen Oganesian, 56, was arrested in relation to the short sale scheme. Arsen Abrahamyan is also being charged in the short sale scheme and authorities believe he has fled the United States.
According to court documents, conspirators in the money laundering scheme used attorneys in an attempt to unfreeze bank accounts that had been frozen due to suspected fraud. Airapetian bribed a lawyer to use his attorney-client trust account to launder over $500,000. Lawyer Arthur S. Charchian, 45, pleaded guilty on Friday, December 14, 2018, to one count of making a false statement to the Social Security Administration and one count of money laundering as he confessed to laundering $549,000.
Galstyan bribed bank managers to unfreeze accounts with funds that are suspected to have been derived from fraud. Hakop Zakaryan, 36, former Wells Fargo manager, pleaded guilty to fraud for his role in the conspiracy on Monday, August 5, 2019.
Airapetian orchestrated another money laundering conspiracy, according to an indictment. He laundered money obtained from health care fraud. Similar to the tax fraud scheme, conspirators used fraudulent identities to open bank accounts, and a 30 percent laundering fee was allegedly charged by Airapetian. An undercover operation was conducted by the FBI where the conspirators laundered funds they believed were derived from health care fraud.
“The arrests this morning are part of a continuing multi-agency investigation into a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) scheme – dubbed Operation “SIRF’s Up” – that involved conspirators who used false identities and fake Republic of Armenia and other former Soviet Republic passports to open hundreds of bank accounts that were used to launder tens of millions of dollars in tax refunds fraudulently received from the IRS,” the Department of Justice for the Central District of California reported.
So far, 35 defendants linked to the scheme have been charged and 15 convictions have resulted from the investigation. There has been a seizure of five residential properties and over $700,000 from bank accounts. Five defendants are currently fugitives from justice.
Airapetian faces a maximum sentence of more than 400 years in federal prison if convicted as charged. The other defendants in the money laundering indictments face maximum sentences of over 100 years in prison.
This matter was investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and Homeland Security. Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.