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'Russian Armenian' Crime Ring Figure Gets 14 Years

March 26, 1997|RADHA KRISHNAN THAMPI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A top organized crime figure has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, bringing to 30 the number of jailed members of a ring involved in drugs, prostitution and black market fuel.

The sentencing of Hovsep "Joe" Mikaelian, who boasted that he was an "Armenian Mafia godfather" during a meeting with an undercover FBI agent, caps a three-year investigation, authorities said.

The joint federal and state investigation was into what officials called "Russian Armenian" criminal enterprises.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen G. Larson said ring members have been ordered to surrender $3.4 million in assets and properties and pay $6.4 million in restitution to the state Board of Equalization and the Internal Revenue Service.

Two more have been indicted and are awaiting trial.

Mikaelian, a former North Hollywood resident convicted for narcotics trafficking, fuel excise tax evasion and mail and wire frauds, was ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution to the state Equalization Board and $170,000 to the IRS.

U.S. District Judge George H. King also ordered him Monday to close down his McLean Coach Classic, a North Hollywood auto repair shop that was allegedly used for many years as a front for narcotics trafficking.

Larson said the Russian Armenian group's illegal activities in California have cost the state and federal treasuries "in the tens of millions of dollars over a number of years."

Larson said the defendants bought motor fuel in bulk from refineries and retailed it to fake companies, pocketing the excise tax due to the state.

The joint task force included the FBI, the IRS, the California Department of Justice and the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments.

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