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Los Angeles fugitive in sprawling COVID relief scam is extradited from Montenegro

The curving seashore of Budva, Montenegro.
Budva, Montenegro, where Los Angeles fugitive Tamara Dadyan was captured in February 2022.
(Michael Finnegan)
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A Los Angeles fugitive who was facing more than a decade in prison for an $18-million pandemic relief scam was extradited Monday from Montenegro to the United States, according to Montenegrin police.

The U.S. Marshals Service took custody of Tamara Dadyan, 41, at the airport in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, police said.

Dadyan admitted in June 2021 that she served as chief lieutenant to her brother-in-law Richard Ayvazyan in a swindle to collect millions of dollars in rescue loans in the opening weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their family fraud ring applied for more than 150 loans to mainly sham businesses in the San Fernando Valley.

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After Dadyan pleaded guilty to three felonies, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson sentenced her in December 2021 to 10 years and 10 months in prison.

Prosecutors urged Wilson to have her locked up immediately, saying she had “every incentive” to flee and might join her fugitive in-laws, Ayvazyan and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, overseas.

But the judge let Dadyan remain free for more than seven weeks to get her affairs in order. The day she was due to report to prison, she disappeared, abandoning two teenage daughters at her home in Encino.

A mug shot of Tamara Dadyan
Tamara Dadyan
(U.S. District Court)

Traveling on a forged British passport under the false identity of Isabella Angela Adamos, Dadyan flew to Montenegro, where Ayvazyan and Terabelian, who was also convicted in the scam, were living under fake names in Tivat, a posh resort town.

By the time Dadyan joined them in February 2022, Ayvazyan and Terabelian — who had abandoned three teenage kids in Tarzana — were living in a rented waterfront villa with a pool on the scenic Bay of Kotor, just up the Adriatic coast from Greece.

L.A. couple facing prison for stealing $18 million in a pandemic relief scam took a private jet to the Balkans and vanished into a posh town on the Mediterranean.

July 21, 2022

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Ayvazyan and Terabelian had been living the high life clandestinely for more than five months, but Dadyan’s life on the lam lasted just a few weeks. Ayvazyan inadvertently tipped off the FBI to the trio’s whereabouts by logging into one of the bank accounts he set up for a fake business that he created in the pandemic scam.

Montenegro police arrested Terabelian at a hair salon in Tivat, then captured Ayvazyan and Dadyan hours later at a hotel in Budva, a coastal town nearby.

Ayvazyan and Terabelian were extradited in November. Ayvazyan is serving a prison sentence of 17 years, and Terabelian, six years.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to comment on Dadyan’s extradition.

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