California couple who stole $20 million in COVID relief funds run away, leave kids behind

Amy Christie

A California couple who set up a scheme that swindled millions of dollars in COVID relief funds made a fast getaway. They cut their electronic bracelets and ran off while waiting for their sentences.

Their three teenage kids were left behind.

What are the details?

Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, used false identities, including names of deceased people, foreign students, or elderly people to ask for money meant to help businesses and people struggling during the pandemic, according to Insider.

They recruited other members for their scheme, who have already received prison sentences. The scheme covered about 150 loan applications, all of them fraudulent while targeting to get 20 million dollars in funds, as the prosecutors stated.

The cash the couple got went into jewelry, luxury watches, gold coins, houses in Tarzana, Glendale, and Palm Desert, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and plenty of designer handbags, as prosecutors pointed out during their trial.

Both the couple and Ayvazyan's brother, Artur, were found guilty of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy for money laundering.

In the meantime, the couple fled and left one note to their three teenage children.

"We will be together again one day. This is not a goodbye but a brief break from one another,” the message said.

The sentence was given on Monday in their absence. US District Judge Stephen V. Wilson gave Ayvazyan a 17-year sentence and Terabelian six years in jail. Artur Ayvazyan will be spending five years in federal prison.

The couple’s children were in the courtroom on Monday, and they were “visibly distraught” when they heard the sentences for their mother, father, and uncle, as Insider points out. They are currently living with their grandparents, Ayvazyan's attorney said for The New York Times.

Wilson said during the sentencing hearing that Ayvazyan had acted in a "callous, intentional way," and that he was an "endemic, cold-hearted fraudster with no regard for the law."

"If given the opportunity, he would concoct another fraud, because the way he spoke of this fraud indicates that that is his way of life," Wilson concluded.
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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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