‘This is not a goodbye but a brief break from each other’
Richard Ayvazyan and his wife, Marietta Terabelian went on the run after being found guilty of scheming to fraudulently claim more than $20 million in Covid relief funds.
The couple were awaiting sentencing and faced lengthy prison time, when they cut off their electronic tracking bracelets and fled home, abandoning their children, officials said.
They left a typed note for their three teenagers, aged 13, 15 and 16, which said “We will be together again one day. This is not a goodbye but a brief break from each other.”
The couple have now been missing for three months, and despite a massive FBI search effort, have not been found. The FBI is offering a reward of $20,000 for information leading to their arrest.
This week a judge sentenced Mr Ayvazyan and Ms Terabelian in absentia to 17 and six years in prison, respectively. Prosecutors said they were part of a group that plotted to steal more than $20 million in funds intended to support small businesses during the Covid pandemic.
“The defendants used the COVID-19 crisis to steal millions of dollars in much-needed government aid intended for people and businesses suffering from the economic effects of the worst pandemic in a century,” said US Attorney Tracy L Wilkison.
Officials said they used fraudulent identities to apply for approximately 150 federal pandemic relief loans for fake businesses in San Fernando Valley.
The couple, along with Mr Ayvazyan’s brother and five co-conspirators, used the money they scammed to buy mansions in Southern California along with gold coins, diamonds, furniture, luxury watches and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, said prosecutors.
The couple’s three children were in the courtroom as their parents were sentenced.