LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Family members of an Encino couple who went on the lam this summer after being convicted in an $18 million COVID-19 relief fraud scheme believe that the couple have been kidnapped.
Undated photos of 43-year-old Richard Ayvazyas and his wife, 37-year-old Marietta Terabelian of Encino, Calif., who have disappeared after being convicted in a federal COVID-19 relief fraud case. (FBI)
According to court records obtained Friday, family members believe that 43-year-old Richard Ayvazyan and 37-year-old Marietta Terabelian were kidnapped in an effort to prevent them from disclosing the identities of unindicted co-conspirators.
Ayvazyan and Terabelian were convicted by a federal jury back in June of charges including bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Two other family members were convicted in the scheme.
However, while awaiting sentencing, federal authorities reported that on Aug. 29, the couple cut off their ankle monitoring bracelets and went on the run.
Defense lawyers wrote in recent filings obtained by City News Service that family members of the couple believe Ayvazyan and Terabelian were abducted and did not voluntarily abscond from their Encino home.
Based on such concerns, attorneys for the missing couple are asking the government to permit inspection of a purported video which could show Ayvazyan and Terabelian voluntarily returning to the home on Sept. 2.
If the couple are not seen on the purported video, “then there is no reliable evidence of voluntary flight. It is not credible to assert that Ayvazyan and Terabelian would have voluntarily fled without leaving any traces such as use of credit lines, electronic accounts, or vehicles,” Ayvazyan attorney Ashwin J. Ram wrote.
Law enforcement believes Ayvazyan and Terabelian are traveling together.
The four family members were found guilty of fraudulently obtaining more than $18 million in Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program funds. They used the money to put down payments on luxury homes in Tarzana, Glendale and Palm Desert and purchase jewelry and other high-end items.
The couple’s sentencing hearing is slated for Nov. 15.
The FBI asks that anyone who has information on the couple call 310- 477-6565. A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)