Ex-Consul, 4 Others Held In Letters Case


United Press International
July 28 2009

LOS ANGELES, July 28 (UPI) — A former Armenian consul in Los Angeles
and a Beverly Hills immigration attorney are among five people charged
with immigration offenses, U.S. officials said.

The five were arrested Monday night and Tuesday morning on federal
charges that they allegedly obtained and sold to illegal aliens
documents called "letters of refusal," which allowed the aliens to
avoid deportation, the U.S. Justice Department said.

A "letter of refusal" is issued by an embassy or a consulate and says
a country will not issue a travel document for an individual. The
department said that effectively blocks the individual’s deportation
to that nation.

Documents said the five allegedly sold official letters of refusal
from the Armenian consulate for as much as $35,000. The department
said an investigation said many of those who purchased the letters
were Armenian nationals facing deportation after being convicted in
the United States of felony offenses.

The five arrested are Norair Ghalumian, 52, of Burbank, Calif.,
the Armenian consul in Los Angeles from 1999 through 2003; Hakop
Hovanesyan, 54, of Glendale, Calif., a former employee at the Armenian
consulate in Los Angeles and operator of Regency Travel in Glendale;
Margarita Lazarian, 41, of Glendale, an immigration attorney for
Inman and Associates law firm in Beverly Hills; Oganes Nardos, 36,
of Valencia, Calif., a substance abuse counselor; and Elvis Madatyan,
47, of Glendale.

The charge of obstructing immigration proceedings carries a maximum
penalty of five years in prison if convicted.


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