He and others, the court documents state, threatened to cut people's heads off if they didn't sign over their businesses, and to kill kidnap victims and their families if ransoms of hundreds of thousands of dollars weren't paid. They delighted in victims crying for their lives, joking one victim "might die of a heart attack because he was so scared."
These are vicious criminals, according to the indictments, who impersonated honest people and looted their bank accounts, stole credit card information by inserting their own scanners in ATMs at 99 cent stores, and defrauded major banks into making loans to fictitious people.
They grew and sold marijuana in huge amounts, even robbing other drug dealers. They stopped at nothing, communicating in "code language" with each other about spotting rich Armenian targets to rob in Palm Springs and Las Vegas.
For the last two years they have been under constant surveillance by federal agents using wiretaps and sophisticated electronic devices.
Mobsters were turned into informants, with witnesses and victims interrogated while other agents dug deep into financial records to build evidence.
U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., who, concidentially, is being honored at a banquet next Thursday at the Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale, called the indictments "a significant first step in dismantling and disrupting this dangerous criminal organization."
No one wants this criminal syndicate removed from our society more than the Armenian community itself, which is so often victimized by it and sees some of its young people lured into a life of crime for the easy money.
"This is difficult for us; 99% of Armenians just want to succeed in being part of a productive effort, to enjoy the freedom and opportunity in the America," said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, a prominent leader in the Armenian community.
"People get upset at being singled out and stereotyped, so they circle the wagons when something like this happens that stain us all. But it's only a short-term problem. It only gives us more reason to remind ourselves to be good citizens, good students and honest businessmen.
"I know I'm going to have to become better than I was yesterday. I want people to see from my deeds who I am."
RON KAYE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your thoughts and stories with him.