Former Armenian consul among charged helping illegal immigrants

Former Armenian consul among those charged with helping illegal immigrants avoid deportation

L.A. Now (a Los Angeles Times blog)
July 28, 2009

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

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

Margarita Lazarian, 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 are expected to ma United States District Court in downtown Los

— Alexandra Zavis

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