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Homeowner duped into giving away his Eagle Rock house, lawsuit says

David Lupica had owned the three-bedroom Eagle Rock home since 2000, when his parents deeded it to him as a gift. In September, public records show, he gave the house to someone else.

Except that he didn’t, Lupica says.

“I have not given, transferred or intended to give or transfer my home to any person at any time as a gift or otherwise,” he contends in a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Lupica, 62, is a single father, unemployed and living on public assistance. He also could become homeless, according to his lawsuit, which contends that he was duped into signing over his house to Tovmas Grigoryan, a Los Angeles payroll services company owner who disappeared in December — as did at least $3 million of his clients’ money.

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Before Grigoryan dropped from sight, the lawsuit alleges, he forged papers granting him the title to Lupica’s 1,652-square-foot house on Lockhaven Avenue. Grigoryan then sold it for $500,000 to a man who is seeking to evict Lupica and his teenage daughter.

Grigoryan could not be reached for comment. This year, his relatives told The Times that he’d left the country for Armenia or Russia right after Christmas. Left behind were about 150 of his LA Payroll clients — among them doctors, restaurateurs and small-business owners— all still on the hook for state and federal taxes he’d collected from them but never paid.

The now-defunct payroll company’s insurer has agreed to cover $3 million of losses, but former clients say their claims are bogged down in legal proceedings. The FBI opened an investigation, according to a letter from a Los Angeles police detective to one of the business owners, but federal officials won’t confirm it.

Lupica’s troubles appear to be unrelated to LA Payroll.

According to his lawsuit, they began last year when he sought a loan to pay bills. Because he was unemployed and couldn’t borrow from a bank, a friend suggested he turn to a private lender. He was put in touch with a man he knew as “Mihran,” who arranged a $10,000 loan, payable over 25 years at $53 a month.

“Mihran” gave Lupica $7,500 of the loan proceeds, the complaint alleges, and kept $2,500 to pay property taxes, but didn’t.

Lupica’s attorneys say they do not know if “Mihran” was actually Grigoryan, or someone working with him. Whoever it was presented Lupica with blank or incomplete documents, which he signed in September and November, thinking they were related to the loan, the lawsuit states.

Instead, Lupica’s signature wound up on forged papers that deeded his house to Grigoryan — for free. The home has an assessed value of about $650,000; according to Lupica’s lawsuit it is worth at least $700,000.

On Dec. 26, public records show, Grigoryan sold the house to Hambartsum Arthur Akopyan of North Hollywood for $500,000.

Akopyan, a would-be house flipper who works in the banking sector, also is a defendant in Lupica’s lawsuit. He referred questions to his attorney, Mary Der-Parseghian, who called him the “bona fide purchaser” of the home and said he is being deprived of his property rights.

“He is paying a mortgage and paying interest on a property that he is not getting rental income from or has access to,” she says.

Der-Parseghian says her client got the home at a reduced price because it was dilapidated — and that Akopyan was told Lupica was a former owner who was renting from Grigoryan, with whom her client has had no other connection.

Lupica, who declined to be interviewed, did not know either Grigoryan or Akopyan, according to Vassiliki Iliadis, an attorney who is representing him pro bono. Lupica learned of the home’s change of ownership in April, Iliadis says, when Akopyan served him with a 60-day notice to move.

“That obviously came as quite a shock to him,” Iliadis says, adding that the prospect of losing his home “definitely has turned his life upside down.”

Lupica’s lawsuit seeks to nullify the transfer of title to Grigoryan and the subsequent sale to Akopyan. The next court date is in early January, so the eviction action is on hold.

In the meantime, Der-Parseghian says, she will ask the court to order Lupica to post a bond or make rent payments into an account from which her client would be paid if he prevails.

Any substantial payments would be a hardship, Lupica has said in court papers. The former car-service driver says he cannot work because of ill health and that he has no bank account, credit cards or investments. He says he and his daughter live on food stamps and $545 a month in welfare assistance.

“I simply do not have the financial resources to post a lump sum bond in any amount greater than $20 without it impacting my ability to survive,” he said in a sworn statement.

kim.christensen@latimes.com
Twitter: @kchristensenLAT

Times researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this report.


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