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Man gets three years for scam

June 17, 2006|By Tania Chatila

GLENDALE ? A United States District judge sentenced a 43-year-old Van Nuys man to 37 months in prison Wednesday for an investment scam that bilked about $20 million from about 200 people, many of whom are from Glendale and Burbank, said officials with the United States Attorney's Office.

Melkon Gharakhanian, whose alias was Mike Garian, pleaded guilty in January to one count of felony federal mail fraud, United States Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

"The court imposed an appropriate sentence," Assistant United States Atty. Michael R. Wilner said. "Mr. Gharakhanian will not be able to defraud other victims for a long time, and it's an appropriate ending to this case."

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Gharakhanian used his Glendale-based company, National Investment Enterprises Inc., to collect $20 million from 1999 to 2001 from investors ? mostly Armenian-Americans ? who thought their money was going toward the purchase of technological security systems, Mrozek said.

Gharakhanian, who was arrested at a Pasadena post office in October, mailed investors false monthly statements about the company and its purchases of shares, he said.

National Investment Enterprises Inc. went under in 2001 after Gharakhanian used investor funds for personal use and to pay for the company's operating expenses, Mrozek said.

Gharakhanian admitted that investors lost anywhere from $2.5 million to $10 million when the company collapsed, Mrozek said.

"Investment fraud continues to be a very pressing problem throughout Southern California for reasons we can't fully explain," Mrozek said.

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