Attorney pleads not guilty to grand theft

LOS ANGELES — A Glendale attorney pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he pocketed more than $400,000 in lawsuit settlements meant for his clients.

Armen Gekchyan, 34, was charged with 15 counts of grand theft by embezzlement and personal property, money laundering and forgery, according to a criminal complaint.

He was being held Friday in lieu of $412,364 bail in a Los Angeles County jail, said Shiara Dávila-Morales, a Los Angeles County district attorney spokeswoman.

Glendale police took Gekchyan into custody Thursday after a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Glendale Police Det. Robert Zaun said.

Detectives began investigating the case in May after receiving a report that Gekchyan may have embezzled money from his client's trust account, Zaun said.

Gekchyan, who graduated from the UCLA School of Law, has practiced law since 2002, but became ineligible in September after he failed to pay his mandatory State Bar of California fees and because he was inactive, according to the bar's website.

He has a law office in the 100 block of West Broadway.

Calls to his office Friday showed the line had been disconnected. Calls made to his attorney, Ruzanna Poghosyan, were not returned.

Through their investigation, police detectives found that Gekchyan received eight civil lawsuit settlement checks from July 2009 to March totaling $412,364, Zaun said. The checks stemmed from lawsuits filed by four or five clients.

Details about the lawsuits were not immediately available.

The checks were deposited to bank accounts in Gekchyan's name, Zaun said. Detectives obtained court orders to comb through Gekchyan's bank records and allegedly discovered the eight checks had been deposited into his bank accounts.

Bank records indicated that Gekchyan used the fund "for his own personal benefit," Zaun said.

Gekchyan is expected to appear Dec. 15 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court to set a date for his preliminary hearing setting, Dávila-Morales said.

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