An Encino real estate broker was sentenced Monday to more than 10 years in prison for her role in a family fraud ring that stole $18 million in emergency pandemic loans largely through fake businesses in the San Fernando Valley.
Tamara Dadyan, 42, is one of eight convicted conspirators in the scam that was led by her brother-in-law, Richard Ayvazyan. Ayvazyan and his wife, who bought a $3.25 million house in Tarzana with proceeds from the loan scam, were convicted at a trial in June, but fled after slicing off their ankle monitoring bracelets. Ayvazyan was sentenced sentenced in absentia last month to 17 years in prison and his wife to six years.
The group filed 151 fraudulent applications for loans that were supposed to keep small businesses nationwide from collapsing during the initial lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecutors say.
Lamenting the "brazenness" of Dadyan's crimes, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson said her "total disregard for the law" was extraordinary. He found that she played an important role in assisting Ayvazyan. The judge mentioned text messages the pair exchanged as they rushed to submit loan applications - including some in the name of dead people - before the taxpayer bailout ran out of money.
"The conversations with Richard Ayvazyan show that she was his junior partner or maybe more," Wilson said.
Dadyan's husband, Artur Ayvazyan, the ringleader's brother, was sentenced last month to five years in prison for his part in the scam. When they report to prison next month the couple will leave behind two teenage girls, ages 1`3 and 15.
Dadyan's attorney, Jerry Kaplan, urged the judge to stagger the sentences so one parent could continue raising the children, but Wilson declined to do so.
Kaplan described Dadyan as an immigrant who came to the U.S. from Armenia as a child and built a successful career as a real estate broker. He called her "a credit to her community."
"This lady has been a stalwart of the family," he said. "Her brother-in-law happened to be a crook."
Wilson invited Dadyan to address the court before sentencing. She nodded no, letting Kaplan speak on her behalf instead.
"The defendant would like to apologize to her community and to her children," Kaplan told the judge.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of more than 21 years in prison for Dadyan, calling her crimes "shockingly callous."
"The millions she stole were intended for small businesses and working families who desperately needed the money to survive as the pandemic paralyzed the economy," they wrote in a court memo.
The family fraud ring created sham businesses to get many of the loans, attaching fake payrolls and forged tax returns to the applications. To open bank accounts for the businesses, they used the names of people whose identities were stolen.
In the text messages, Dadyan and her brother-in-law discussed how to create phony payroll reports and invent employer identification numbers that would look legitimate to government loan monitors.
When FBI agents raided the Encino house of Dadyan and her husband, they found fake identification documents, credit cards for phony businesses, checkbooks in the names of fraudulent loan applicants and notary stamps and seals belonging to state and federal courts.
Dadyan pleaded guilty in June to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She named her husband and his brother as co-conspirators. Her husband, in turn, blamed Dadyan for the fraud when he took the stand at his trial.
Dadyan later asked Wilson for permission to withdraw her guilty plea. She claimed she had relied on bad advice from the attorney who urged her to accept prosecutors' demands in the plea deal.
Wilson rejected that request on Monday. Dadyan's new attorney, Kaplan, said she would appeal her sentence.
Christopher Fenton, a trial attorney at the Justice Department in Washington, asked Wilson to have Dadyan immediately taken into custody, saying she had "every incentive to flee," but the judge let her remain free until Jan. 5.
"There's no clear and convincing evidence that she's a flight risk," Wilson said.
Both Dadyan and her husband are awaiting trial on unrelated state mortgage fraud charges.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.