August 21, 2020
By Caity Roach (née Witucki)
Contributing Editor, Fraud Friday
Fraud Friday— California Man Flees to Belarus After Being Indicted for Loan Fraud
California businessman, Arman Manukyan, was formally charged last week for allegedly obtaining more than $860,000 in fraudulent PPP loan funds for two shell companies and transferring the bulk of his illicit gains to personal bank accounts. The Department of Justice believes that Manukyan has now fled the country to evade legal ramifications, boarding a flight from Mexico City to Paris with a final destination in Belarus.
According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Manukyan submitted two applications for PPP loans in June 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. To support his application, he created false tax documents purporting to show wages and taxes for the company. However, the underwriting packet prepared by Bank of America did not include a list of employees or associates for Argo Global. 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 July, a seizure warrant was executed on Manukyan’s bank accounts, recovering $866,019. A search warrant executed 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.
Just a few weeks after the search was executed at Manukyan’s home, the FBI received information that he had fled the country.
Manukyan has been charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted of both charges, Manukyan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 32 years in federal prison.
Department of Justice