In a recent case highlighting the rise of fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Glendale man has been sentenced to 6½ years in prison for his involvement in laundering at least $3 million in fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. Arman Nikogosyan, 45, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money and was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution. From 2020 to December of the same year, Nikogosyan played a key role in a scheme where his co-conspirators applied for unemployment insurance benefits in the names of others and then used debit cards to withdraw the illicit funds. This case serves as a stark reminder of the need for increased vigilance and measures to combat fraudulent activities during times of crisis.
Glendale Man Sentenced to 6½ Years in Prison for Laundering At Least $3 Million in Fraudulently Obtained Jobless Benefits
In a recent case that highlights the impact of fraudulent activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Glendale man has been sentenced to 6½ years in federal prison. Arman Nikogosyan, 45, was found guilty of laundering at least $3 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The benefits were obtained by his accomplices, who took advantage of the expanded UI benefits provided by Congress in response to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Nikogosyan’s role in the scheme involved receiving the cash proceeds of the fraudulent activity and using various tactics to conceal their source and location.
Arman Nikogosyan was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered him to pay $3 million in restitution. Nikogosyan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money. The conspiracy involved a scheme to obtain jobless benefits fraudulently and then launder the proceeds through various means. The case serves as a stark reminder of the criminal opportunism that can arise during a global crisis.
Length of Prison Sentence
Arman Nikogosyan has been sentenced to 6½ years in federal prison for his role in laundering fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. This sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and aims to deter others from engaging in similar illegal activities.
Judge’s Order for Restitution
In addition to the prison sentence, United States District Judge John F. Walter ordered Arman Nikogosyan to pay $3 million in restitution. This restitution is meant to compensate for the financial losses suffered by the government as a result of the fraudulent activity.
The Guilty Plea
Arman Nikogosyan’s Admission of Guilt
Arman Nikogosyan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money. By pleading guilty, Nikogosyan acknowledged his involvement in the scheme to obtain and launder fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. This admission of guilt is a crucial step in the legal process and allowed for a more efficient resolution of the case.
Details of the Conspiracy
Starting in 2020 and continuing until December of that year, Arman Nikogosyan became part of a conspiracy to launder fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. The conspiracy involved applying for UI benefits in the names of other individuals and then using debit cards issued by a major bank to withdraw the funds. Nikogosyan arranged to receive the cash proceeds of this fraudulent activity and used various methods to conceal the source, ownership, and location of the funds.
The Unemployment Fraud Scheme
Timeline of the Fraud
The unemployment fraud scheme orchestrated by Arman Nikogosyan and his co-conspirators took place throughout 2020, with the illegal activity finally coming to an end in December of that year. This timeline illustrates the duration and scale of the operation, highlighting the considerable effort put into obtaining and laundering fraudulently obtained jobless benefits.
How the Fraud Was Carried Out
The unemployment fraud scheme involved applying for UI benefits in the names of unsuspecting individuals. Once the funds were approved and loaded onto debit cards issued by a major bank, the co-conspirators would withdraw the funds using the debit cards. Arman Nikogosyan played a crucial role in this operation by receiving the cash proceeds and using various tactics, such as depositing the funds under assumed names and using shell companies, to conceal the illicit source of the money. This sophisticated operation allowed the fraud to go undetected for an extended period.
Congress’ Response to COVID-19
Expansion of UI Benefits
In response to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress implemented measures to expand unemployment insurance benefits. These measures aimed to provide financial assistance to individuals who had lost their jobs due to the crisis. However, these expanded benefits also created opportunities for fraudsters to exploit the system and obtain funds dishonestly.
Role of the Employment Development Department
The Employment Development Department (EDD) is the agency responsible for administering UI benefits in California, where the fraudulent activity took place. As the agency overseeing the distribution of these benefits, the EDD plays a crucial role in ensuring that the funds are allocated to eligible individuals and preventing fraud. In this case, the involvement of the EDD became a focal point of the investigation and highlighted the challenges faced by government agencies in detecting and preventing fraudulent activity on such a large scale.
Money Laundering Tactics
Arman Nikogosyan employed various money laundering tactics to obscure the source, ownership, and location of the fraudulently obtained funds. One such method involved depositing the cash proceeds of the unemployment fraud scheme under assumed names, including those of shell companies. This allowed Nikogosyan to conceal the illicit nature of the funds and make it more difficult for law enforcement and financial institutions to trace the money.
Use of Shell Companies
Shell companies are business entities that exist primarily on paper and do not have any significant assets or operations. These entities can be used for legitimate business purposes, but they can also be exploited for illicit activities such as money laundering. In this case, Arman Nikogosyan used shell companies as part of his money laundering scheme to further distance the fraudulently obtained funds from their criminal origins.
Seizure of Funds
Law Enforcement’s Confiscation of Cash
Law enforcement authorities were able to seize a significant amount of cash from Arman Nikogosyan’s residence. The $194,497 that was confiscated by law enforcement was determined to be proceeds of the fraudulent unemployment scheme. This seizure is a critical step in dismantling the operation and preventing further illicit activity.
The amount seized by law enforcement authorities from Arman Nikogosyan’s residence totaled $194,497. This significant sum represents a portion of the fraudulently obtained funds and serves as evidence of the scale and impact of the criminal operation.
Response to Nikogosyan’s Actions
Prosecutors argued that Arman Nikogosyan’s actions were not only illegal but also morally reprehensible, considering the global health and economic emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They emphasized the severity of the crimes committed and the impact on taxpayers, who ultimately bear the burden of such fraudulent activity. By highlighting the criminal opportunism displayed in this case, prosecutors sought to underscore the need for harsh consequences and deter others from engaging in similar acts of fraud.
Criminal Opportunism in a Global Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread economic and social disruption, leaving many vulnerable individuals in desperate situations. The fraudulent activity perpetrated by Arman Nikogosyan and his co-conspirators took advantage of this crisis for personal gain. Prosecutors argued that such criminal opportunism during a global emergency is particularly egregious and should be met with severe penalties.
Arman Aghasinyan’s Prison Sentence
One of Arman Nikogosyan’s co-conspirators, Arman Aghasinyan, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for his role in withdrawing $2.9 million in bogus unemployment insurance benefits from ATMs. Aghasinyan’s prison sentence reflects the seriousness of his crimes and serves as a reminder that all individuals involved in the fraudulent scheme are being held accountable.
Arayik Avetisyan’s Prison Sentence
Another co-conspirator, Arayik Avetisyan, received a prison sentence of 36 months for withdrawing $1.4 million in fraudulent Employment Development Department (EDD) benefits from ATMs. Avetisyan’s sentencing further underscores the consequences faced by individuals involved in the unemployment fraud scheme.
Involvement of the FBI
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) played a crucial role in investigating and uncovering the unemployment fraud scheme orchestrated by Arman Nikogosyan and his co-conspirators. The FBI’s expertise in financial crimes and its commitment to upholding the law contributed to the successful prosecution of this case.
Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force’s Role
The Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force also played a significant role in this investigation. Task forces like these are specialized units that bring together law enforcement agencies to combat organized crime networks operating across multiple jurisdictions. Their collaborative efforts and expertise were instrumental in uncovering the complex web of criminal activity surrounding the unemployment fraud scheme.
In conclusion, the sentencing of Arman Nikogosyan highlights the significant consequences that await individuals involved in laundering fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. The case serves as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance in detecting and preventing fraud, especially during times of crisis. Through the diligent efforts of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and specialized task forces like the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, these criminal operations can be dismantled, and justice can be served.