Landlord sentenced to 20 years in prison in murder-for-hire plots

Arthur Aslanian stands outside an apartment complex he owns in 2022.
Arthur Aslanian stands outside an apartment complex he owns in 2022.
(The Hartsook Tenant Assn.)
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A North Hollywood landlord convicted of hiring a hitman to kill two opponents, then hiring an arsonist to torch his own apartment building, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Arthur Raffy Aslanian, 55, of La Cañada Flintridge repeatedly resorted to violence to settle business disputes and avoid paying debts, federal prosecutors argued during his five-day trial in July. A jury found him guilty on two counts of conspiracy and three charges related to murder for hire and arson, and on Monday a federal judge handed down the 20-year sentence.

According to prosecutors, Aslanian hired a gang member in April 2022 to kill two people: his former bankruptcy attorney, whom he owed more than $261,000 in legal fees, and a man who had successfully sued Aslanian.


“This defendant thought he could get away with murder by financing a murder plot against two of his rivals,” said United States Atty. Martin Estrada. “This case should serve as a cautionary tale to those who would resort to violence to settle their disputes: You will be caught and the consequences will be severe.”

According to prosecutors, Aslanian conspired with a former employee, Sesar Rivera, to put him in touch with a gang member with a criminal record to act as a hitman.

The gang member met with Rivera and was offered $20,000 for the jobs. Instead of going ahead with the killings, however, the gang member recorded the July 2022 meeting and gave the recording to law enforcement.

Here is what we know about the last couple of weeks on campus, based on interviews, recordings, social media and documents.

May 7, 2024

In addition to his former bankruptcy attorney, Aslanian wanted the gang member to kill a man identified only as “S.E.” who had successfully sued after Aslanian tried to take possession of the home where S.E.’s parents lived.

The plots prompted an elaborate operation orchestrated by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to fool Aslanian into thinking the killings occurred, prosecutors said. Rivera and the convicted gang member worked with law enforcement on a ruse that included staging a photograph to make Aslanian think his business opponent had been shot and killed.

“ATF saved the lives of two individuals in this case,” said Christopher Bombardiere, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division.


In an unrelated plot, federal prosecutors also accused Aslanian of using the same former employee to pay someone to set fire to one of his rental properties in North Hollywood.

Low-income tenants of the building had been in a long-running dispute with Aslanian, who wanted the residents to leave the property.

The tenants accused Aslanian of being a slumlord, harrassing and threatening them in his attempts to empty the apartments.

In one of the worst housing markets in the world, these apartments are $7 a month.

May 7, 2024

According to court filings, Aslanian promised to pay someone $2,000 to set fire to the building.

There were two arson attempts on the property, officials said, in February and March of 2022.

Rivera pleaded guilty in March 2023 to one count of conspiracy and one count of use of interstate commerce facilities for the commission of a murder-for-hire plot. Facing up to 10 years in federal prison for each count, he is expected to appear in court July 8 for a sentencing hearing.


“We will continue to work tirelessly to seek out and build cases against these violent criminals who have no moral compass and instead are driven by greed,” Bombardiere said in a statement.