A couple in California is absconding for the last three months after being found guilty of illegally taking advantage of a COVID relief scheme. Richard Ayvazyan (43) and his wife, Marietta Terabelian (37) were facing prison for their crime but they cut off their electronic tracking bracelets and fled their California home in the month of August. A report by CNN stated that the couple also abandoned their three teenage kids, leaving a typewritten note for them. “We will be together again one day as this is not a goodbye, but just a short break from each other,” the note read, reported outlet citing Ayvazyan’s lawyer.
The couple was reportedly convicted in the month of June and despite a massive search effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), they have not been found yet. Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian are facing prison terms of 17 and 6 years respectively. According to prosecutors, the couple, along with others conspired to steal more than $20 million in COVID relief funds intended for small companies. “The defendants took advantage of COVID-19 crisis to steal millions of dollars in much-needed government fund for people and companies suffering during the testing time of the pandemic,” US Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison was quoted as saying by CNN.
‘The couple used fake identities for 150 federal pandemic relief loans’
At a trial in June, the couple and Ayvazyan’s brother, Artur Ayvazyan, were convicted of bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. In addition, the Ayvazyan brothers were also found guilty of aggravated identity theft. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, they submitted fraudulent applications for approximately 150 federal pandemic relief loans for bogus businesses in the San Fernando Valley. They reportedly used fake or stolen identities, including the names of dead people and foreign exchange students who briefly visited the US years ago.
According to federal authorities, fake identity documents, as well as forged tax forms and payroll records, were presented to lenders and the Small Business Administration to support the bogus loan applications. Meanwhile, prosecutors said the couple and five other co-conspirators used the money to buy flats in three Southern California locations, including Tarzana, Glendale, and Palm Desert. In addition, they also purchased gold coins, diamonds, luxury watches, and a high-end motorcycle. It should be mentioned here that the FBI has offered a reward of $20,000 for information leading to the couple’s arrest.