Montenegro Extradites Fugitive Involved in COVID-19 Relief Fund Scam in the US

Published: 03 March 2023

US Flag DollarsWoman sentenced in the first trial of a flagrant case of pandemic relief fraud has been extradited to the U.S. (Photo: marsmett talahassee, Flickr, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

A woman who fled to Montenegro last year to avoid a prison sentence for her role in a COVID-19 relief fund scam has been extradited to the United States to serve for fraudulently obtaining more than US$20 million, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Tamara Dadyan, along with her six co-conspirators, took advantage of the pandemic to steal millions of dollars that were supposed to be used to help individuals and businesses affected by the economic consequences of the global epidemic.

The seven people who were part of this fraud ring in Los Angeles were sentenced for obtaining funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

The group used dozens of fake, stolen, or synthetic identities to submit fraudulent applications for roughly 150 PPP and EIDL loans. False and fictitious documents, including fake identity documents, tax documents, and payroll records, were submitted to lenders and the country’s agency that helps small businesses.

The agency’s inspector general said that “conspiring to rob victims of their identities and subsequently, taxpayer funds vital to the survival of the nation’s small businesses will be met with justice.”

Those involved in the scheme used the illicit proceeds to buy luxury items and properties, including homes, gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

In June 2021, Dadyan pleaded guilty to several counts, including wire fraud and bank fraud, and was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison in December of the same year, but she fled the U.S. the following month to avoid serving her sentence.

Dadyan was eventually located in Montenegro, where she had joined two other participants in the scheme, Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian, who had also fled after their convictions. Ayvazyan and Terabelian were extradited to the U.S. late last year.

The U.S. government investigated and prosecuted the case with the assistance of Montenegro.