North Hollywood man sentenced to nine years in federal prison for smuggling cocaine in household products shipped to Australia

 

Date: February 21, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man has been sentenced to 108 months in federal prison for smuggling more than 80 pounds of cocaine – concealed and suspended in grease – in household products that were mailed to Australia.

Vardges Markosyan of North Hollywood, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

Markosyan – who also was known as "David Petrosov," "Giani Oncho," and "Laram Narman" – pleaded guilty in November 2019 to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Between December 2014 and October 2016, Markosyan was involved in a drug conspiracy that procured approximately 40 kilograms (88.2 pounds) of cocaine and shipped it to Australia. The cocaine was suspended in grease and placed in empty household products such as log splitters, air compressors, tankless water heaters, lampstands, and air conditioners. The wholesale value of this cocaine was at least $7 million in Australia, court papers state.

The shipped packages were sent via commercial carrier to Australia, where the drugs were distributed. Markosyan conducted "test runs" of drug shipment methods by sending packages of household products by commercial carrier to Australia to evaluate whether the drugs could be shipped without detection inside similar packages. For example, in March 2015, a co-conspirator used FedEx to send 9.87 kilograms (21.76 pounds) of cocaine hidden in a log splitter to Australia. In advance of this package, Markosyan sent a similar log splitter in a "test run" to Australia.

Markosyan also conspired with his sister, Iren Markosyan of North Hollywood, to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking and fraudulent activity. From May 2014 until January 2019, Markosyan used his sister's name – with her knowledge – to buy properties in North Hollywood and Studio City. Markosyan and his sister obtained hard-money loans secured against these properties, and spent the net proceeds of these loans after transferring them to various accounts. In December 2018, Markosyan received $234,442 from the sale of the North Hollywood property. Markosyan also obtained, with his sister's assistance, Medi-Cal benefits by falsely stating that he had no income, according to court documents.

"Because these loans essentially liquidated the illicit proceeds that were used to purchase these homes, there was never an intent to pay these loans back," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. "In total, (Markosyan) laundered up to $3.5 million in this manner."

Markosyan has agreed to forfeit to the U.S. government his interest in the Studio City property, held in his sister's name, as well as a 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat also held in her name.

Iren Markosyan pleaded guilty in May 2019 to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. She will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison at her sentencing hearing later this year.

This matter was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation, FBI, the Glendale Police Department, and the California Department of Health Care Services Investigations Branch, in conjunction with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The United States wishes to thank its foreign partners -- the New South Wales Police Force, the New South Wales Crime Commission, and the Australian Federal Police -- for their assistance in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Puneet V. Kakkar of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section, and Katharine Schonbachler of the Asset Forfeiture Section.