Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2020. 11:51 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: COVID-19 has dominated the news cycle in Belize since March, but for a while before that, all anyone here could talk about was 53-year-old Levon Termendzhyan, alias Lev Aslan Dermen.
Convicted two months ago of multiple counts of money laundering, fraud and conspiracy in the Washakie Renewable Energy scheme, Dermen remains in custody at the Salt Lake County Jail despite multiple filings in court.
Dermen ensnared a prominent polygamous Utah family in a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service in relation to renewable fuel energy credits and launder profits in the States and abroad. He trusted that multiple high officials in the U.S., Turkey and Belize, including now ex-Minister John Saldivar, would protect him from being found out.
Saldivar was fingered in a text message exchange with already convicted Jacob Kingston allegedly agreeing to come to pick up two “tranches” of funds for campaign financing in 2011; he insists he did nothing wrong and is working to clear his name.
Dermen, according to the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, lost a motion before U.S. Federal judge Jill Parrish at the start of April that a mistrial should be declared because the spread of the coronavirus would cause the jurors to rush their deliberations. She said she found no evidence of this and that jurors, who needed just eight hours over two days to deliberate after hearing seven weeks’ worth of testimony, had indicated there would be no concerns.
Judge Parrish has yet to rule on a motion that Dermen be released from the county jail pending sentencing on the ground of the spread of COVID-19 there. A date for his sentencing, which could see him imprisoned for as much as 180 years, has not been set either.
Meanwhile, two of Dermen’s former associates were separately charged and one pleaded guilty.
Ex-agent of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Babak Broumand, is alleged to have cooperated with an attorney to give him sensitive information and help him avoid detection, while in the employ of the FBI at its office in San Francisco, California. Once Dermen’s scheme began, the lawyer is said to have asked Broumand to search his database for information on Dermen, according to HETQ, an Armenian news website.
And at the start of May, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, attorney Edgar Sargsyan agreed to plead guilty to bribing multiple federal law enforcement agents, particularly in the case of Dermen, his former partner turned bitter enemy, quoting the Los Angeles Times.
The ABA Journal says Sargsyan cooperated in an investigation of a $511 million tax fraud case against Dermen, who was convicted in March for obtaining tax credits for biodiesel fuel that did not exist. Dermen wants to reopen discovery in his case on the grounds that prosecutors withheld information from him that was disclosed in Sargsyan’s plea agreement, Law360 reports.
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