COVID-19 scammers who fled to Montenegro while awaiting sentencing extradited back to US: Report
A pair of convicted felons who scammed COVID-19 relief programs out of $18 million were extradited back to the U.S. this week from Montenegro, where they fled last year while awaiting sentencing, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday, citing local police.
Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, were convicted in June 2021 on multiple counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
The couple led an eight-person fraud ring that used dozens of fake or stolen identities to submit applications for about 150 fraudulent PPP loans, which netted them $18 million.
They used the ill-gotten funds to purchase gold coins, luxury watches, designer handbags and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
While awaiting sentencing, they cut their ankle monitors off in August 2021 and fled the country, according to the FBI.
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The couple flew to Montenegro on a private jet and assumed false identities while living in a villa on the Bay of Kotor before the FBI located them in February, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Ayvazyan’s sister-in-law, Tamara Dadyan, also fled to Montenegro, but it’s unclear when she will be extradited, according to the newspaper.
Ayvazyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison last year, while Terabelian was sentenced to six years.
The U.S. Marshals and Department of Justice did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
Upward of $100 billion may have been swindled from COVID-19 relief programs that were meant to help individuals and businesses during the pandemic, Department of Justice Inspector General and Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Chair Michael Horowitz told Fox News earlier this year.