The losses already have hit some hard.
Mark Tabesh, who owns two Inland Empire computer-repair shops, compared his $20,000 loss to the theft of his motorcycle at age 19.
"Back then, I could roll with the punches," he said. "Now I'm older, with a family of six to support … and it's not as easy for me. My wife was crying for like a week straight, knowing what a catastrophe this is for us."
Melissa Meltzer said the My Gym children's fitness franchise she owns in Los Angeles with her husband had been with LA Payroll for six or seven years. Their first hint of trouble arrived in a state notice that their third-quarter taxes hadn't been paid.
The fourth-quarter payments weren't made, either. All told, the business is out about $55,000, Meltzer said.
"We don't have that much just lying around," she said.
A lawyer, Meltzer said she was taken aback by a three-page document that one of Grigoryan's employees found in office files. Dated Aug. 16, 2013, and apparently signed by Grigoryan, it commits LA Payroll to a $3-million investment in a Panamanian company's unspecified "business project."
Grigoryan was to wire the money to an Austrian bank account. It's not clear if the transaction was made, but if it was, Meltzer said, she thinks it should have set off alarms with the company's bank and has asked it to investigate.
"If I want to move $10,000 of my own money, I'm told, it's going to be reported," she said. "If this guy moved $3 million to Vienna from the impound account, there should be records."
Mark Gilula, whose company sells DVDs and other entertainment products over the Internet, moved it from California to Illinois two years ago, in part to cut costs. Business was tough already, he said, but losing $30,000 is disastrous.
"I'm going to take a hit and I can't afford it," he said. "I just laid a person off last week in anticipation of this. It's awful."
Times researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this report.