Los Angeles-area Man Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining $860,000 in COVID-19 Relief Funds

LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man now believed to have fled the United States today faces federal criminal charges for allegedly obtaining more than $860,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for a shell company and then transferring the bulk of his illicit gains to his personal bank accounts.

Arman Manukyan, 49, of Panorama City, was charged today with one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, in concert with the Treasury Inspector General to the Tax Administration, the Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Employment Development Department, Investigation Division.

According to an affidavit in support of the complaint, Manukyan in June submitted two applications for PPP loans to Bank of America for $1.7 million on behalf of two shell companies registered in his name – Argo Global, Inc., and Express Wiring.

Manukyan allegedly claimed Argo Global was a sewing business with 73 employees and submitted to Bank of America, and later the Small Business Administration, false tax documents purporting to show wages and taxes for the company. The underwriting packet also did not include a list of employees or associates for Argo Global, which listed a virtual office address in Beverly Hills as its place of business, according to the affidavit. Ultimately, an $867,187 loan was approved for Argo Global, Inc.

Shortly after receiving the funds in Argo Global’ s name, Manukyan allegedly transferred most of the balance to two of his personal bank accounts. When a bank investigator contacted Manukyan after one of his accounts had been frozen because of suspicious activity, he allegedly told the bank he was going to use the PPP loan to start a limousine business, contradicting what he wrote on his loan application.

In June, Manukyan also allegedly submitted to Bank of America a loan application of $884,748 for Express Wiring, a shell company with a Glendale address. The Small Business Administration rejected the application, indicating it either had been submitted after the June 22 deadline for PPP loans or the allocated PPP funds had run out.

In July, a seizure warrant was executed on Manukyan’s bank accounts, recovering $866,019.

A search warrant executed by HSI special agents and law enforcement partners at Manukyan’s home on July 22 revealed multiple debit cards used for unemployment benefits from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) that were in the names of different people. Manukyan allegedly told law enforcement that he found two of the EDD cards on the street and decided to keep them, but insisted that he never used them. Investigators recovered another $118,474 from debit cards linked to Manukyan.

On August 9, HSI and partner investigators received information that Manukyan had boarded a flight from Mexico City inbound to Paris with a final destination of Minsk, Belarus.

If convicted of both charges, Manukyan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 32 years in federal prison. This case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Major Frauds Section.

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