By City News Service
A Glendale man was sentenced Monday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for laundering at least $3 million in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits that his accomplices obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arman Nikogosyan, 45, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Walter, who also ordered him to pay $3 million in restitution, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Nikogosyan pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Starting in 2020 and continuing until December of that year, Nikogosyan joined others in a conspiracy to launder fraudulently obtained jobless benefits. Nikogosyan arranged to receive the cash proceeds of the unemployment fraud scheme in which his co-conspirators applied for benefits in the names of other people and then used debit cards issued by a major bank to withdraw the funds.
In 2020, Congress expanded unemployment insurance benefit amounts and duration and expanded eligibility to more workers in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nikogosyan, who knew the cash was obtained from jobless benefits fraud, and had some of the money deposited under assumed names, including those of shell companies. Nikogosyan then had the illicit funds sent abroad and used to purchase gold in order to conceal their source, ownership and location.
During the scheme, Nikogosyan laundered at least $3 million in illegal funds that his co-conspirators brought to him in cash.
In December 2020, law enforcement seized $194,497 in cash from Nikogosyan’s residence that was gained from the fraud scheme, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
“When confronted with the COVID pandemic that has claimed the lives of almost 7 million persons worldwide to date, [Nikogosyan] instead saw an opportunity to bilk taxpayers out of the emergency funds their government generously made available to protect those who lost their jobs,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum.
“Such criminal opportunism during a global health and economic emergency is egregious,” they added.
In separate cases, some of Nikogosyan’s co-conspirators received prison sentences. Arman Aghasinyan, 23, of Glendale, is serving a federal prison sentence of three years and 10 months for withdrawing $2.9 million in bogus unemployment insurance benefits from ATM for accomplices; and Arayik Avetisyan, 23, of Glendale, is serving a three-year term for withdrawing from ATMs $1.4 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits and delivering the cash to his co-conspirators.