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New twist in Covid relief fraud case: Third fraudster is on the run

“I don’t know where the heck she is,” Tamara Dadyan’s lawyer said.

A third member of a California fraud ring accused of stealing more than $18 million in Covid-19 relief loans has gone on the run, the FBI said Thursday. 

Tamara Dadyan, 42, was supposed to report to prison Jan. 28 to start serving a 10-year sentence, but she never showed up, and her whereabouts are unknown. 

"She is now considered a fugitive," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Image: Tamara Dadyan
Tamara Dadyan.FBI

Dadyan’s lawyer, Joseph Benincasa, said he was in the dark over her whereabouts.

“I don’t know where the heck she is,” Benincasa said. “I have not had contact with her.” 

Benincasa said he last spoke to Dadyan on Jan. 28 when she came to his office. He said he believed at the time that she was heading downtown to turn herself in.

Then “I got a call from the federal government asking, ‘Where is she?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Benincasa recalled. 

Dadyan’s disappearance is the latest twist in the sensational Covid fraud case.

Image: Richard Ayvazyan
Richard Ayvazyan.FBI

The man accused of leading the crime ring, Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, went on the run last summer as they awaited sentencing.

Federal authorities believe the couple cut off their ankle monitoring bracelets and fled their home after they were convicted in June. Ayvazyan, who is Dadyan’s brother-in-law, was sentenced in absentia in November to 17 years in prison. His wife was sentenced to six years.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the couple's arrests.

A total of eight people were accused of using fake or stolen identities to submit fraudulent applications to receive about 150 Covid relief loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. They used the stolen money for down payments on luxury homes and to buy such items as gold coins, diamonds and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Image: Marietta Terabelian
Marietta Terabelian.FBI

All eight have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Dadyan’s husband, Artur Ayvazyan, was sentenced to five years in prison. He is locked up at a federal prison in Los Angeles, records show.

Dadyan, a Los Angeles real estate broker, was indicted in November 2020 on 23 counts, including bank and wire fraud. She pleaded guilty in June.

At Dadyan’s sentencing in December, prosecutors asked the judge to have her taken into custody immediately, saying “she had every incentive to flee,” the Los Angeles Times reported. But the judge let her remain free, the Times reported. 

Dadyan appealed her sentence, but the appeal was denied. 

Benincasa, her lawyer, said he assumed she was wearing her ankle bracelet when she was in his office at the end of January. But “I’ve never looked at someone’s ankle to check,” he said.