During my recent trip to the States, I found myself waiting in the office of an Armenian attorney in Glendale. I wanted to speak to some of his clients.
A man of about 40 entered with his wife of the same age. I had made some acquaintances with members of the Armenian Bar Association and the contacts were bearing fruit.
On the day in question, I was serving as one of their assistants.
I began to perform my duties – to listen attentively to their stories and familiarize myself with their cases. For the most part, the clients were former residents of Armenia.
I took notes and was amazed with what I heard – robbery, fraud, bank embezzlement, credit card theft...Here’s one of their tales. . .
A woman wound up in a police entrapment scheme. Her husband had forced her into committing the crime. When the lawyer told her the prosecuting attorney was asking for a 180 jail sentence, the woman broke into tears. Sitting alongside, her husband told her “keep your mouth shut”.
The husband was wearing a thick gold chain around his thick neck. In Glendale, sporting a thick gold necklace is tantamount to saying one also drives a BMW. No matter how poor they are or in debt, all former RA residents in Los Angeles must have a BMW and thick gold chains.
Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, when the banks are closed, this family racked up $25,000 of purchase on a fake credit line of $2,000. In one store, they purchased a $1,500 computer. Three hours later they came back and bought three more. Elsewhere, they purchased a meat grinder and other household goods.
When the woman made a feeble attempt to weasel her way out, the attorney pulled out an envelope, leaned over, and showed her the photos taken on closed circuit cameras. Everything was there in black and white. The woman said nothing more and began to wail even louder.
The attorney advised them to come clean so that he could draft an appropriate defense.
The crafty pair had started out with a small purchase on their credit line. Then, with the use of a cell phone, they gave a bank account number from which to draw more funds for the credit line. It later turned out that the account had been frozen in 2010.
Since it was Friday evening and the banks were closed, the fraud was only discovered a few days later.
The attorney asked what they had done with all those computers and the couple, in tandem, said they had sent them as gifts to Armenia. He then asked who had used the fake bank account and credit line. The woman said nothing and looked at her husband.
The husband, hands placed on the table, was trying to convey the fact that he had done the dirty deeds but, in reality, he had made her an accomplice.
“I have no idea where the money came from. Whoever did it should come forward and say so,” said the play acting husband. He then told his wife to leave the room.
The attorney raised his voice a bit and told the man he shouldn’t have ordered his wife to leave.
“Brother, you committed the thefts by purchasing those items. It was your credit card and you knew about the $2,000 limit. They have all the photos. If you have the money, you’d better pay them back,” the attorney advised.
The man responded that they didn’t have that amount of money. The attorney advised him to pay at least a portion to avoid a jail sentence. The man said he’d go and think about it.
I have no idea how the case will end. Go to Los Angeles and you can hear countless similar tales on a daily basis.
Mark Bledstein, a local attorney who has served Armenian clients for many years says the following about Armenians charged with various crimes.
“For many just coming from Armenia, it’s not a crime to cheat the government. At least this was the general perception of the first wave of immigrants. This country is awash in money and they think they can steal some of it. The second generation has changed a bit. The third generation will have become Americans and won’t think like that at all.”
I decided to sit in at some of the trials. The first was at the court in Burbank. I looked at the trial schedules affixed to the wall. I spotted three Armenian names involved in criminal and six names for civil trials.
(To be continued)
Photo: Burbank Courthouse
karen 30 July, 2012
Yeghkeli is. Now I like them to stay in or go?
Levik 30 July, 2012
These criminals are not citizens of the Republic of Armenia and other former big difference there ....
haykUS 30 July, 2012
Edik jan, please continue your stories from LA. More I see them more I believe that LA has quite different Armenian community than in other US cities and majority in LA think ounly how to make money illegaly instead of being good citizens.
Artur 30 July, 2012
I am from LA and been here since 1990. Sure some Armenians do bad stuff here but that's a small portion. Most of us are hard working people who love our families and our neighbors. Sad that the bad ones are making the rest of us look bad. Few bad apples are spoiling the rest...
A Resident 30 July, 2012
"...all former RA residents in Los Angeles must have a BMW and thick gold chains." - this is probably the most ignorant statement I have read or heard in a long while. Statements like this take away from the overall credibility of the author. Very unfortunate
BMW 4-ever 31 July, 2012
I'm 50 years old, originally from Yerevan, lived in SoCal for over 3 decades. I'd never broken any laws, (except a pair of traffic violation), never was arrested, and never have been in the courthouse (except for Jury Duty). I do drive BMW -- have owned 5 so far, enjoy the fruits of my hard labor, and don't wear a goldchain on my neck. The kicker is, I'm not an exception -- I believe I'm the norm, yet nobody cares to write about people like me. The news is sensentiolized thanks to the people who ARE criminals, and WILL be criminals regardless of their country of residency. Get over it -- Armenians are wondeful in infinite ways, and as with any nationality, criminal elements at times are unavoidable .
Jack Muradyan 31 July, 2012
There are some ignorant comments in this article and it looks like it was written by a high school student. How can you generize like this? You think everyone is like this? Because of some low lifes you think most people out of Armenia are like this? While I cannot defend these people, but trust me. Majority of Armenians from Armenia are smart hardworking people. I'm surprised an Armenian would write such an ignorant article.
Mikemur 31 July, 2012
It's not the criminals I'm woried about, because sooner or later they will be caught and put in jail. It's people who use them to make hatefull comments against an entire group that warry me. There are no low against them. The damage they create by dividing and sprading hate among poeple are much bigger then the crimes of these common criminals. It is not a coinsident that our enemies have used same wepons of demonizations and division against us many times before. Other nations are more aware of this danger and you rarly see one of them blaming their own entire group for crimes of a few.
Tom 31 July, 2012
Maybe the author is generalizing when describing ALL former RA citizens as gold chain wearing, BMW driving hustlers and cheats, but to be fair, whenever you read about Armenians involved in crime, organized or petty, THE MAJORITY COME FROM ARMENIA. This has probably more to do with Armenia's post-Soviet reality than any genetic disposition to crime. Parallels can be made to Soviet Jews cheating the system and engaging in criminal rackets in Brooklyn and elsewhere. The RA Ministry of the Diaspora should be funding research on this aspect of its own diaspora rather than believing it can analyze the traditional diaspora that has precious little connection to present day Armenia.
Christopher 31 July, 2012
If only Armenians used their brilliant minds at doing better things rather then stealing from the US government and acting so proud of their actions. A smart race of people who will never know where to use their intelligence.
Raffi 31 July, 2012
Try as I might, I have been unable to unearth official stats or facts as to the perventage of "ethnic" Armenians in the total prison population of the California State Prison Sytem, let alone county jails. Nor are there reports detailing the numbers of Armenians arrested and incarcerated on an annual basis in California. So let's not jump to conclusions that Armenians are more or less inclined to committ criminal offences than other "ethnic groups" in California or indeed elsewhere. If readers have such information, please share it with the rest of us. Anecdotal assumptions and here-say are no basis for claiming that Armenians, in relation to their population, engage in criminal activities than others. Let's get the facts on the table if possible..
Marianna 31 July, 2012
Karen, just like them All - Armenian and Armenia are the result of the general mentality, it will be much more preferable, and does not turn to other countries that remain in their normal, industrious and law-abiding compatriots discredited the name and the Armenians (and in general all the post-Soviet mentality, which is broken logic state (part of which, according to them, the banks are) stealing is stealing, and other tactics) do not become criminals in America, Mr. Baghdasaryan, but use different system in the U.S., people trust feature, which is already complete will disappear very soon due to their nmanneri and painful that such an experienced journalist like you to be irresponsible generalization to several hundred thousand Armenians havasaratsnelov several thousand aimless anugheghnerin.
Gary 1 August, 2012
All US major papers and media outlets have stories about Haiastanzis committing all kinds of criminal acts. It is not a small number and no one has an agenda to make us look bad. This is a consequence of Soviet Armenia mentality: still if you can,why not? specially the government. Utter and total selfishness. It is a moral bankruptcy for a nation who yells their are the 1st Christians.
Lag 2 August, 2012
Driving a BMW in Glendale is not expensive: you can lease one for around $6,000 per year. Of course you will not be the owner of the BMW, but people will think that you are. And that's all that matters for most Armenians driving such cars.
Aram 3 August, 2012
One of the reasons that Hayastatsis have had a bad reputation in U.S is that a lot of uneducated and shady characters came along the educated and decent ones while most Armenians from around the world that came to U.S were educated and did not need or got involved with shady affairs.
Armen 3 August, 2012
I am an Armenian from Armenia who has been educated in the US through highly prestigious US government fellowship program. Now I reside in Armenia and work and live for Artsakh. I have seen crooks in both Armenia and the US. Cheating and stealing does not have nationality. I was so honest that I was called "a man descending from the starts" back in my home city. I strongly disagree with the gist and logic of the article that Armenians cheat and lie, especially those coming from Armenia. Search honest people in today's Armenia and Artsakh and you will find tens of thousands pearls and diamonds.
Mher 3 August, 2012
This is to Aram #22. And would you say that the thousands who fled to America prior to and after the 1915 Genocide were "educated"? They were average folk from the interior provinces and towns of the Ottoman Empire who lived by certain principles of honesty and integrity. Those values seem lost today!
July 30, 2012