Friday, October 23, 2020

Beverly Hills lawyer pleads guilty to bribing federal agents

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An attorney with law offices in Beverly Hills and ties to Armenian organized crime pleaded guilty Tuesday to five felonies, including bribing two federal agents for assistance in obtaining sensitive law enforcement information.

Edgar Sargsyan, 39, entered his plea to two counts of bribing a public official, two counts of making false statements to federal investigators, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for Sept. 28, at which time Sargsyan could face up to 50 years in federal prison.

The Calabasas man admitted paying tens of thousands of dollars from the beginning of 2015 through early 2017 to a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations and a special agent with the FBI.

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Sargsyan paid the HSI agent at least $32,000 in checks and at least $45,000 to $50,000 in cash in return for assistance that included the HSI agent searching law enforcement databases to obtain information that he passed to Sargsyan.

The HSI agent also altered a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database to make it “more likely” that a foreign national who was a client of Sargsyan’s law firm would be allowed to enter the United States, according to court papers.

In another corrupt act detailed in Sargsyan’s plea agreement, the HSI agent prepared a document on the agency’s letterhead in an unsuccessful attempt to have one of Sargsyan’s relatives from Armenia admitted into the United States.

Sargsyan also admitted paying the FBI agent monthly cash bribes of up to $10,000 beginning in 2015 in exchange for the agent providing “protection,” which included running queries on law enforcement databases and warning Sargsyan to “stay away” from certain people who were the targets of criminal investigations, according to the plea agreement.

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The FBI agent, who worked at the agency’s San Francisco field office, accepted the cash payments on trips to Southern California, where he stayed at luxury hotels that were paid for by Sargsyan, federal prosecutors said.

The agent also accepted from Sargsyan a $36,000 racing motorcycle as a “bonus” for running database checks on a particular person. Sargsyan also gave him a $30,000 cashier’s check that was made to appear to be a payment to the agent’s business, according to court documents.

The false statements charges arise from interviews in September 2017 by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, when Sargsyan falsely stated that the $30,000 check to the FBI agent was a loan, and in December 2018, when he falsely told special agents with the FBI and HSI that he did not pay bribes to the FBI agent.

Sargsyan also admitted participating in a conspiracy that defrauded financial institutions by fraudulently obtaining credit cards in the names of foreign nationals who had previously been in the United States on J1 visitor visas.

Once the credit cards were issued by the financial institutions, Sargsyan and his co-conspirator charged “purchases,” including more than $941,000 that Sargsyan personally charged at two businesses he controlled.

Retired FBI agent Babak Broumand — Sargsyan’s alleged co-conspirator — is scheduled to face trial next month on conspiracy and bribery charges for allegedly accepting more than $200,000 in cash bribes and gifts in exchange for providing sensitive law enforcement to the lawyer.

The status of the HSI agent was not immediately clear.

Original article on mynewsia.com

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