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Man pleads not guilty to heroin charge

Police bust parolee in Montrose after receiving several complaints.

July 19, 2012|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com
  • Vahagn Stepanyan, a parolee, was arrested on suspicion of selling heroin.
Vahagn Stepanyan, a parolee, was arrested on suspicion… (Courtesy of the…)

A 26-year-old parolee pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of selling heroin at a Montrose strip mall parking lot, officials said.

Vaghan Stepanyan, who is on parole for a grand theft conviction, faces six felony counts for drug sales, possessing a controlled substance and firearm violations, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court criminal complaint.

Two other men — Tigran Zmrukhtyan, 19, of Pasadena and Nverik Yaghoomian, 26, of Glendale — also were charged with possessing a controlled substance after they allegedly purchased heroin in an alley and tried to rid of it when Glendale police spotted them.

Narcotics detectives began investigating Stepanyan on Monday after they received complaints about possible drugs sales in the strip mall.

Detectives said they saw Stepanyan exchange an object with a motorist in an alley outside a two-story home near the mall at Honolulu Avenue and Glenwood Road.

About 40 minutes later, detectives saw Stepanyan pass an object to Yaghoomian and Zmrukhtyan as the pair were seated inside their car, according to police. Yaghoomian discarded a bag containing heroin from the passenger window when they were stopped, police said.

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Detectives searched Stepanyan and found $1,100 in his wallet.

Police then searched Stepanyan’s room on the 2800 block of Hermosa Avenue, where he was living with his aunt.

Inside his room, detectives found heroin, hypodermic needles, drug paraphernalia, digital scales, numerous plastic bags, cash, ammunition and a gun, according to police. They also found prescription pills to treat pain and opioid addiction.

Authorities said Stepanyan had been dealing for a while and had clients of all ages.

Stepanyan has multiple convictions, including possessing drugs, identity theft, unlawfully carrying a weapon, petty theft and grand theft, according to court records.

The arrests come a few days after a meeting of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition aimed at discussing ways to deter local teens from abusing legal and illicit drugs.

“Heroin is no stranger to many of our communities,” said coalition president Matt Zakarian, who’s also a police officer. “The [coalition] stands fast against drug sales in our community.”

Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa raised concerns regarding heroin use in 2010, when he attributed all drug-related offenses in January that year to the drug.

At the time, he said heroin use had been escalating for the past five years and more high school students and young adults were getting hooked on the drug.

That same year, the coalition was awarded a five-year, $625,000 federal grant to work on thwarting substance abuse among local teens.

Zakarian urged parents to help their children have the “strength and courage to turn away from substance abuse.”

He also encouraged resident to report any suspicious activity to police.

“Our community will no longer tolerate sellers or users,” Zakarian said.

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