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3 Arrested in Extortion, Robbery of Granada Hills Couple

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three men accused of threatening to kill a married couple and blow up their Granada Hills home if the three were not paid $300,000 were arrested Thursday after they had picked up a partial payment, Los Angeles police said.

Gagik Karapetian, 31; Arapet Baloumian, 31, and Artouch Akopian, 32, all Armenians who live in Los Angeles, were booked for extortion, robbery, burglary and making a bomb threat, said Detective Tom King of the LAPD’s Criminal Conspiracy Section.

The victims were described as in their 60s and prominent in the city’s Russian community, but police did not further identify them. King said they were “traumatized,” but otherwise uninjured.

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The extortion attempt began Oct. 15 when two masked men--one brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle and the other an Uzi--entered the couple’s home through a rear screen door, King said.

After tying up the couple and searching the house, the men showed them several sticks of dynamite and said they would kill the couple and blow up their house unless the men received $300,000, police said.

The couple paid the men several thousand dollars that night and on Oct. 18 before relatives persuaded them to contact police, King said.

On Thursday, police followed Karapetian, who, posing as a flower deliveryman, had picked up an envelope containing money from the couple, King said. All three were arrested when they met at a service station at Highland and Franklin avenues, King said.

No weapons or explosives were found.

“In certain communities, extortion is not that uncommon,” King said. “It appears that they were making a living off it, and we believe there are more victims out there.”

The three, who are being held in lieu of $500,000 bail each, are scheduled to be arraigned Monday in San Fernando Municipal Court.

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