Questions roil Armenian Genocide compensation fund

More than $1.6 million has been paid out from a compensation fund for descents of Armenian Genocide victims, according to a status report filed in a lengthy lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

However, four of the 32 claimants who haven’t been paid have died and attorneys are seeking direction from U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder about whether their families — who have verified their lineage to the descendants — should be paid the funds instead.

Snyder is also being asked to order banks that handled past transactions from the Axa S.A. insurance settlement fund to check various forms to see if any fraudulent transactions have occurred. The request follows some questionable financial activities regarding compensation funds in the past.

The lawsuit stems from allegations made by Glendale-based attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan that there were accounting discrepancies in the fund set up by the French insurer. He has requested an audit of all 3,000 claims.

The accounting firm of Holthouse, Carlin and Van Tright has been handling the payment of about $2.1 million to 159 claimants. About 75% of the funding has been paid out so far, according to the status report.

However, 28 of the 32 remaining claimants have not responded to multiple attempts by the accounting firm to contact them.

In a past status report, concerns were raised about 17 checks totaling more than $312,000 that were made payable to compensation claimants, but appear to have been endorsed by Los Angeles attorney Berj Boyajian and deposited into an account called Boyajian and Associates at Union Bank.

Boyajian wrote checks totaling $118,127 to various individuals from insurance settlement funds that he had deposited into his Union Bank account, but Boyajian allegedly kept the remaining $194,166 until last June, according to the status report filed in federal district court.

On June 28, shortly after the previous status report was filed outlining the suspicious check endorsements by Boyajian, a check for $194,166 was written from an account for Boyajian’s legal counsel and deposited into the Axa settlement account, the report states.

Boyajian doesn’t deny the transactions and his attorney submitted documentation under oath affirming them.

The report also states that Boyajian, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, refused to answer significant questions during a deposition in the case.

However, Glendale resident Parsegh Kartalian, the compensation fund’s administrator, testified in a deposition that he did not know how Boyajian got ahold of the claimant’s checks, that Boyajian had no role in the administration of the claims and that he had nothing to do with deciding which claims would be approved or denied, according to the status report.

Insurance fund “claimant” Zaven Haleblian testified during a deposition that nine settlement checks made payable to him totaled $574,425 — which is the same amount that was in an account in his name at First California Bank, an account he knew nothing about until last April that allegedly was opened by Boyajian, according to the status report filed with the court.

Haleblian said he never submitted a claim for settlement funds and had no relatives involved in the Armenian Genocide.

He said he did grant Boyajian power of attorney to manage his account at Pacific Western Bank because he lives in Syria most of the year. However, Boyajian’s power-of-attorney responsibilities did not include opening bank accounts, according to the status report.

After Haleblian’s deposition, Boyajian returned all of the money from the First California account into the Axa settlement fund, the report states.

Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.

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