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Burbank man suspected of immigration fraud, was already under federal investigation

A Burbank man under federal investigation since 2017 for his alleged involvement with a prescription drug ring was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of immigration fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is accusing 44-year-old Armen Simonyan of unlawfully gaining U.S. citizenship and lying on his passport application. Ben Barron, a federal prosecutor, said Simonyan was already under investigation for his alleged ties to a series of sham medical clinics that were issuing fraudulent drug prescriptions, prompting investigators to look into his immigration history.

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Simonyan had been out on bail relating to the drug investigation at the time of his arrest this week.

Barron added that Simonyan is also wanted in Armenia for passport fraud.

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He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the grand jury indictment, Simonyan first arrived to the United States in September 1997 under a travel visa and reportedly had a fake Armenian passport with a stolen identity, Rafayel Khachatryan. He previously applied for a visa using his real information but was denied.

The following year, he applied for asylum under his real name but using a fake date of birth, according to the indictment.

Officials said he made numerous false statements in his application and in the sworn testimony he gave to an immigration officer. Simonyan claimed he was born in Azerbaijan and was fleeing from the country after the murder of his parents.

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“[He] falsely stated that his mother had been ‘hacked to pieces’ … that his father had been killed during ethnic violence in the early 1990s.” the indictment states.

He also claimed to have entered the United States by crossing into the country from the Mexican border.

Authorities said he was actually born in Armenia, his parents are still alive and he came to this country on a flight into Los Angeles International Airport.

Simonyan went on to give more false statements about his past when he applied for permanent residency in December 2002, according to the indictment.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is seeking to revoke Simonyan’s naturalization.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He also faces a maximum of 60 years in prison if he’s convicted in the drug-ring case.

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