Former Glendale Resident Arraigned on Charges Alleging She Defrauded Investors of $3.9 Million Using a Suspended Real Estate License
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 23, 2013|
A former resident of Glendale was in court this week to face charges alleging she defrauded numerous victims in a series of real estate investment schemes, announced Bill L. Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and André Birotte, Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.
Sona Chukhyan, 48, of San Francisco, was named in a federal grand jury indictment returned in United States District Court in Los Angeles on September 26, 2013. The indictment, which was unsealed upon the defendant’s arrest, alleges Chukhyan executed a variety of real estate schemes in which she convinced victims to invest and specifically charges her with wire fraud; aggravated identity theft; and aiding and abetting. Chukhyan was arrested by the FBI in San Francisco on October 3 and was recently returned to Los Angeles to face prosecution.
Acording to the indictment, Chukhyan operated the schemes with others, two of whom are identified in the indictment only as “co-schemer 1” and “co-schemer 2.” Co-schemer 2, Chukhyan’s spouse, owned JBA Company LLC, a business that purportedly rented real estate and rented and repaired shoes in northern California.
The indictment alleges that Chukhyan solicited investors in a variety of ways. In some cases, Chukhyan told victims they were investing in deals on a semi-exclusive basis before the deals were available to the general public. In other cases, Chukhyan offered victims an opportunity to “flip” homes for a quick profit and often misrepresented that she already had buyers lined up once the title was obtained. In other cases, Chukhyan encouraged victims to extend short-term loans to third parties who could not obtain hard money loans from a traditional source and advised victims they would earn back their principal investment and interest on the purported loans. The indictment alleges that Chukhyan sometimes provided victims with fictitous documentation to lend legitimacy to the fraudulent schemes. The indictment alleges that, beginning in or about December 2004 through at least June 2010, victims transferred approximately $4,600,000 to Chukhyan and co-schemer 1.
Chukhyan allegedly told victims that she was a licensed real estate agent in Califrornia when, in fact, her license had expired in 2000 and had been suspended in August 2003. In addition, Chukhyan allegedly made material misrepresentations to victims, assuring them their money was safe and that their investment was without risk. In fact, Chukhyan did not use investors’ money as intended but instead spent victim money on her residence, personal purchases, cash withdrawals, and to make Ponzi-style payments to early investors in order to avoid suspicion, according to the indictment.
When victims did become suspicious, Chukhyan gave false reasons for delays or told victims that she “rolled” their principal investment and purported profits into another deal that would generate yet more profit, according to the indictment.
The indictment further alleges that Chukhyan sent various e-mails and text messages to victims vowing to repay them in order to forestall investors from suing her or reporting her to law enforcement. Ultimately, Chukhyan stopped responding to victims’ demands for their money to be returned. As a consequence of the scheme, victims lost approximately $3.9 million, according to the indictment.
The indictment outlines wire transactions made from victims located in areas in Southern California and other U.S. states.
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Chukhyan faces a statutory maximum penalty of 242 years in federal prison—20 years for each fraud count, plus a mandatory two-year sentence for the aggravated ID theft charge.
Chukhyan had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court Monday afternoon and was released on $250,000 bond. A trial date of December 17 has been scheduled.
This case was investigated by the FBI. Chukhyan will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angleles.
- United States Attorney’s Office: 213-894-6947
- Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Cazares: 213-894-0707
- FBI Los Angeles Press Relations: 310-996-3343