(CN) – A former Armenian consul in Los Angeles, a Beverly Hills immigration attorney and three others were arrested Wednesday and charged with selling “letters of refusal” to block the deportation of felons, federal prosecutors said.
Letters of refusal state that a country will not grant a travel document for a person, effectively blocking deportation to that nation. The letters issued through the Armenian consulate allegedly were sold for as much as $35,000 apiece.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the five people worked independently, and got clients by word of mouth in the Armenian community. They allegedly used contacts in the Armenian government to get refusal letters for their clients.
Arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were Norair Ghalumian, 52, of Burbank, the Armenian Consul in Los Angeles from 1999 through 2003; Hakop Hovanesyan, 54, of Glendale, a former employee at the Armenian Consulate; Margarita Mkrtchyan, 41, of Glendale, an immigration attorney for Inman and Associates in Beverly Hills; Oganes Nardos, 36, of Valencia, Calif., a substance abuse counselor; and Elvis Madatyan, 47, of Glendale.
The allegations are contained in four criminal complaints. All five are accused of obstructing proceedings before a department or agency