Three scammers who fled after being convicted of committing a multimillion-dollar Covid-19 relief scam have been apprehended in Montenegro, according to US law enforcement officials.
Richard Ayvazyan, 43; Marietta Terabelian, 37; and Tamara Dadyan, 42, were detained Tuesday in the small mountainous country in southeastern Europe, according to sources.
It was unclear how their extradition to the United States would proceed.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following publication of this report, a representative for the Justice Department verified that the scammers had been apprehended in Montenegro.
“We have filed a request for their extradition,” she added in a statement.
The three fugitives were among eight members of a California criminal ring convicted of defrauding Covid of almost $18 million in relief loans.
Prosecutors stated that they submitted false applications for around 150 Covid relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan programme using fictitious or stolen names. The thieves used the stolen funds to make down payments on luxury properties and to purchase things like gold coins, jewels, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Ayvazyan was recognised as the scam’s ringleader. He and his wife fled last summer while awaiting punishment.
Federal prosecutors suspect the couple removed their ankle tracking bands and fled their house after being convicted in June, leaving behind their three children. Ayvazyan was sentenced to 17 years in jail in absentia in November. His wife received a six-year term.
The FBI was promising up to $20,000 in exchange for information leading to the couple’s arrest.
Tamara Dadyan, 42, was scheduled to report to jail on Jan. 28 to begin completing a ten-year term, but she did not appear.
“I have no idea where she is,” her lawyer, Joseph Benincasa, told NBC News in early February, following the FBI’s announcement that she had vanished.
On Wednesday, Benincasa did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Ayvazyan’s attorney confirmed to NBC News that he was no longer representing the convicted fraudster. Terabelian’s attorney, David Diamond, stated that he was unaware of any arrest.
The FBI has placed the three fugitives on its most wanted list.