A real estate developer charged with a murder-for-hire conspiracy faces new criminal charges in federal court, where prosecutors allege the businessman also hired someone to burn down one of its properties in order to evict its tenants.
In a federal indictment, prosecutors paint a vicious picture of Arthur Aslanian, who prosecutors say used arson and goons to settle business disputes and avoid paying millions in dollars of debt.
But the conspiracies began to unravel in September when, with the help of cooperating witnesses, federal agents concocted a plan that included creating a fake crime scene.
Aslanian’s attorney, Melanie Killedjian, declined to comment on the additional charges filed Wednesday, but said in a brief statement that her client has denied all allegations and maintained his innocence. Aslanian was arrested last September and has been in custody since January on allegations of a murder-for-hire conspiracy.
In September, federal prosecutors charged Aslanian with hiring an assassin to kill a banker he owed about $3 million. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also believed Aslanian had set up a plan to kill his former attorney to avoid paying more than $250,000 in legal fees.
To trick the property developer into believing the murder had taken place, ATF agents asked the Aslanian employee to show his boss a photo of what was believed to be the dead banker. Instead, the photo had been staged by authorities and the employee was fitted with recording devices to stage the criminal case against his boss.
Now, in a new court filing on Wednesday, the Justice Department alleges Aslanian also agreed to pay someone $2,000 to burn down one of his properties in North Hollywood, where tenants had accused Aslanian of being a sleep owner and using harassment and threats, among other tactics. , in an attempt to deport them illegally.
A La Cañada Flintridge real estate developer with a growing portfolio and debt, Aslanian and his companies are named in more than two dozen lawsuits and have run into trouble with local government agencies for violating building permits, labor codes and no -payment of workers. .
But his alleged plot to hire a gang member to kill his former lawyer and a banker fell apart when, instead of following through, the gang member turned himself in to police, court records show.
Investigators believe this was not the only violent plot Aslanian hatched.
Prosecutors allege that in February 2022, Aslanian and a co-conspirator set out to find someone to set fire to one of his rental properties in the 11000 block of Hartsook Street in North Hollywood.
The unit was vacant but it adjoined several bungalows that were rented by tenants that Aslanian had been feuding with for months.
Some of the tenants, who would eventually take legal action against him, claimed that Aslanian had tried to evict them illegally for months, exposed them to asbestos, mold and vermin, and demolished buildings. walls to get them out.
The tenants claimed that they had repeatedly tried to get Aslanian and his company to resolve the property’s issues, but were instead threatened and harassed.
According to the federal indictment, Aslanian allegedly promised to pay someone $2,000 to set the property on fire.
Using a borrowed gas canister and a hot plate, a co-conspirator started a fire at the property on Feb. 5, officials say, but only the exterior of the building was burned.
A second fire was started by another co-conspirator on March 18, 2022, burning vacant land in the building.
In July 2022, tenants filed a complaint against him, accusing him of harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Aslanian continued to demand rent from tenants after the fire.
Court records show the lawsuit was dismissed in October after the tenants reached an agreement with Aslanian.
Joseph W. Kellener, an attorney representing the tenants, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement due to a confidentiality clause in the agreement.
On Wednesday, federal officials also asked the court that Aslanian be held until the end of his trial, saying the businessman was not just a flight risk, but a community safety risk. . An arraignment date for the new charges against Aslanian has yet to be set by the court.
Writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this article.