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Extortion Plot Ended in Death, Authorities Say

Man is sought for allegedly trying to squeeze money from a felon who was violating his probation, and then fatally shooting him.

October 17, 2002|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police are searching for a man suspected of extorting money from a convicted felon over his probation violations, then fatally shooting the victim in his North Hollywood home.

Detectives released a composite sketch Wednesday of the man believed responsible for the Sept. 6 slaying of Artak Jragatsbanyan, 26. They are concerned the suspect may have been involved in other shakedowns targeting ex-cons.

Jragatsbanyan pleaded guilty to federal health-care fraud charges in April and was serving 10 months at a Hollywood halfway house, which he was allowed to leave only to go to work or church.

But Jragatsbanyan was worried about his pregnant wife, Ani, and would sneak over to his family's North Hollywood bungalow for visits, police said. When the suspect learned of Jragatsbanyan's actions, he extorted hundreds of dollars from him by threatening to tell authorities.

The suspect posed as an investigator for the halfway house, although police said he was not an employee there. He apparently never met Jragatsbanyan before he began demanding money from him.

"We're trying to find out how this guy hooked up with [Jragatsbanyan]," Det. Tim Shaw said. "We're also trying to find how he came up with this information."

The suspect was last seen driving away from Jragatsbanyan's home on the morning of the slaying in a silver or gray Ford sedan, possibly a Thunderbird or Taurus, police said.

He is described as a 6-foot, 200-pound African American between 26 and 38 years old, with a goatee surrounded by stubble. He was wearing a baseball cap, a long-sleeve jacket and blue jeans.

The suspect met with Jragatsbanyan several times beginning in August, Shaw said.

Police said it's not clear how their relationship began.

But Ani Jragatsbanyan said the suspect knew too much about her husband, and the halfway house's rules.

"He had followed my husband," she said. "He'd tell him where he'd walked, where he'd gotten into his car. My husband really thought this guy was an investigator. He knew he had made a violation, so he fell for this."

Jragatsbanyan, who had been working as an apprentice plumber since his guilty plea, may not have paid as much as the man demanded, Det. Dwain Anderson said.

On the morning of Sept. 6, the suspect went to the bungalow and shot Jragatsbanyan several times in the torso, police said. Shaw said Ani Jragatsbanyan had stepped out to run some errands.

According to court documents, Jragatsbanyan, the former owner of Golden Age Medical Supply in Los Angeles, defrauded the state of $353,000 in a Medi-Cal billing scam.

Detectives ask anyone with information about the slaying to call (818) 623-4075 or, after hours, (818) 623-4016.

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