Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2023. 8:21 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Three years after being first found guilty in her courtroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bloomberg reports United States District Judge Jill Parrish handed down a 40-year prison sentence to 56-year-old Levon Termendzhyan, alias Lev Aslan Dermen, Armenian-American businessman, in a trial that was closely watched in Belize because of ties to local politicians.
During the midst of the trial in February 2020, one of the co-accused turned cooperating witness, Jacob Kingston, had in open court implicated John Saldivar, then aspiring to be the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), of receiving funds directly from him in Miami – US$25,000. After initially denying it, Saldivar said the funds were campaign finance which he used for sporting projects in his constituency of Belmopan.
Saldivar stood aside as party leader within hours of being elected, then lost his seat in Belmopan in the general election held in November. Two years later, he would be designated by the United States Department of State, denied entry to the United States along with his family, due to “significant corruption” established while in office, a charge he continues to deny; however, after an internal vote paved the way, he was allowed to run and won the party’s standard-bearer contest in Belmopan. Saldivar has said nothing he uncovered in background checks on Dermen or Kingston pointed to illegal conduct or corruption.
As we have reported, U.S. media allege that Dermen and Kingston befriended persons like Saldivar as part of a global money laundering scheme to wash the profits of their renewable energy tax credits as bribes to politicians, as well as buying various property in the U.S., Turkey and Belize, where a parcel of land was purchased in order to build a casino. The men each visited Belize several times and once rode a Boston Whaler gifted to Belize from the U.S. Coast Guard on a visit to Hunting Caye.
The case was “one of the most egregious examples of tax fraud in U.S. history,” Albert Childress, who runs the Internal Revenue Service office in Phoenix, said in a statement.
Jacob pleaded guilty in 2019, as did his brother, Isaiah; his mother, Rachel; and his wife, Sally. Jacob was sentenced this week to 18 years in prison. Isaiah got 12 years, Rachel was sentenced to seven years, and Sally got six years. The Kingstons are members of the Order, the largest Mormon polygamist clan in the U.S. Authorities say it’s an organized crime group with 10,000 members that controls more than 100 businesses in the West.
Dermen, who maintains his innocence, had sought a sentence of time served. He will likely appeal. Several other associates were either already imprisoned or await trial for their part in the scheme.
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