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Val Verde murder stays cold

Key witness in case fled to Armenia

Posted: September 27, 2009 10:27 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.
In the two years since federal fugitive Gevorg Gasparyan was shot dead in Val Verde, the key witness fled to Armenia and there have been no new leads, a detective said this week.

"It doesn't really look good," sheriff's Detective Jeff Leslie said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau has cooperated on the investigation with both the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gasparyan, 25, was fatally shot once in the chest Sept. 22, 2007, at his home on Lexington Drive in Val Verde.

In April of that year, Gasparyan and five other people were indicted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Richmond, Va., for allegedly stealing more than $600,000 as part of an identity-theft ring.

The only witness was Sargis Poghosyan - also a fugitive in the case - who shared the small Val Verde house with Gasparyan, Leslie said.

While Leslie was interviewing other people after the killing, he said, he told Poghosyan to stick around.

"He chose not to stay," Leslie said, and added Poghosyan had fled to Armenia by the time Leslie was aware of his federal fugitive status.

"He just split," Leslie said. "He'd said he was scared.

"My only option would be to go to Armenia and interview him, which I have considered."

It remains unclear if there was a connection between Gasparyan's death and the identity-theft case.

"I'm not sure," Leslie said. "Obviously that's possible."

Investigators said there appeared to be a struggle preceding the shooting. Poghosyan was not considered a suspect.

The Gasparyan shooting is just one of many cases Leslie is investigating. On average, he said, detectives in the Homicide Bureau work between 10 and 12 cases per year.

Gasparyan was first indicted April 4, 2007, along with five other people, and an arrest warrant was issued the next day.

Between Dec. 12 and Dec. 28, 2006, members of the alleged identity-theft ring made roughly $618,517 in fraudulent ATM withdrawals, using card and PIN numbers stolen from customers of a Mechanicsville, Va., gas station, where one of the conspirators worked, according to the 14-page indictment.

Some of the money was wired to bank accounts in Armenia and Russia, according to the indictment.

Also indicted were: Gagik Urutyan and Anton Mesropyan of Lakewood, N.J.; Poghosyan and Gevorg Ghazaryan of Rehoboth Beach, Del; and Elvina Gutierrez, aka Elvina Abdrakhmanova.

All six were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

In addition, Gasparyan, Mesropyan and Urutyan were each charged with two counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Ghazaryan was acquitted before the case went before a jury.

Anyone with information about the case can contact the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.


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