Former Armenian Consul Arrested in Immigration Probe

LOS ANGELES (LA Times)–Five people, including a former Armenian consul in Los Angeles and a Beverly Hills immigration attorney, have been arrested on charges that they sold official letters to illegal immigrants to help them avoid deportation, prosecutors said today.

The arrests, which took place in the last 24 hours, were the result of a two-year investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The five are accused of supplying so-called letters of refusal from the Armenian Consulate for as much as $35,000 apiece, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

These letters state that a country will not issue a travel document for a particular individual, essentially blocking that person’s deportation to that nation.

Investigators believe many of those who purchased the letters were Armenian nationals facing deportation after being convicted of felony offenses in the United States.

“These defendants endangered the safety and security of United States residents,” U.S Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said in the statement.

“The defendants allegedly exploited their community ties and knowledge of the immigration system to help dangerous criminals, among others, avoid deportation,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles.

The five defendants were identified as:

Norair Ghalumian, 52, of Burbank, the Armenian consul in Los Angeles from 1999 through 2003.

Hakop Hovanesyan, 54, of Glendale, a former employee at the Armenian Consulate in Los Angeles and current operator of Regency Travel in Glendale.

Margarita Mkrtchyan, 41, of Glendale, an immigration attorney for Inman & Associates law firm in Beverly Hills, Calif., who was arrested last night.

Oganes Nardos, 36, of Valencia, a substance abuse counselor.

Elvis Madatyan, 47, of Glendale.

They were expected to make initial appearances Tuesday afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.


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  1. Armenak said:

    Great, a week ago we had Rabbis in New Jersey, now we have them. They need to be locked up and not deported. Send them to Antarctica. These are the kind that have respect toward nobody. They are abusers and do not contribute to any cause. They sold Armenia, continue to abuse Armenia, and now they are infesting our communities as well. When Armenia was soviet republic, they did not care about the future of their grandchildren or anything they had. People would break buttons in elevators in their own apartment buildings, and would tear cushioning sit inserts from public buses to name a few. Now, you can see them littering in front of Starbucks, and can tell by cigarettes buds (Parliament) who were the smokers. Their grandchildren are disrespectful in the same manner, as were their grandparents in Armenia. Let’s abuse here too, and see where else can we find a safe heaven.

  2. YSC said:

    The revelations, as reported, that the Consulate General of Armenia has engaged in the selling of immigration documents that have allowed murderers and other violent criminals to avoid lawful deportation and remain in the United States is disturbing, yet not shocking.

    U.S. media has long reported on the culture of corruption in the Republic of Armenia and its negative effect on the U.S., including the widespread fleecing of American business people, as well as scams emanating from Armenia to “obtain” Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement dollars and U.S. aid dollars.

    This newest transgression, however, has graduated from pervasive fraud from Armenia to an issue of U.S. homeland security – effecting our own communities. Armenia’s acceptance of corruption is now allowing convicted murderers and other violent criminals to live among us, at best. One would shudder to think of who else this corruption has allowed to be our neighbors.

    Perhaps this escalation will be a wakeup call to Armenian leadership to address their culture of corruption.

    Respectfully submitted
    Y. S. Crane
    Mission Viejo, CA 92692