A deportation officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was found guilty Tuesday in Los Angeles County of “structuring” charges for making cash withdrawals and deposits totaling nearly $100,000, which were designed to circumvent federal reporting requirements and to conceal assets from his then-wife and the state court during divorce proceedings.
Vardan Keshishyan, 49, was found guilty of two counts of structuring of currency transactions to evade reporting requirements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez scheduled a Jan. 7 sentencing hearing, at which time Keshishyan will face up to 10 years in federal prison.
According to evidence presented at his three-day trial, shortly after his then-wife filed for divorce, Keshishyan began structuring nearly $100,000 out of his bank accounts to deceive the court into believing he only had $1,000 in assets that could be distributed during the divorce.
In January 2015, Keshishyan deposited about $96,000 from the sale of the home he shared with his then-wife into a bank account he solely owned and controlled. He then withdrew $99,400 from his bank accounts by making 11 cash withdrawals of about $9,000 — each withdrawal just shy of the bank’s mandatory reporting requirements for cash transactions above $10,000.
During one attempted withdrawal, a bank manager warned Keshishyan that it was a crime to break up a cash transaction greater than $10,000 into smaller amounts to evade the bank’s reporting requirements mandated by federal law. After the manager informed Keshishyan that the bank planned to file a report to comply with federal law, he cancelled the transaction. He then continued his pattern of structured transactions elsewhere to avoid the filing of any report required under federal law, according to prosecutors.
Once he had drained his bank accounts, according to evidence at trial, Keshishyan lied under oath to the court at a June 2015 hearing in his divorce case, falsely telling the court he had lost $95,000 of the family home sale proceeds, in part, through a bad investment. Upon learning that Keshishyan had withdrawn the funds in cash progressively over time, the court warned him that his pattern of cash withdrawals was “not permitted,” according to evidence at his trial.
Despite these admonishments from the court and the bank manager’s warning about the illegality of structuring, Keshishyan continued to structure to sneak the money back into his accounts. Once he and his then-wife settled on the terms of the divorce and the judgment issued, he structured $99,000 back into his bank accounts. In 2016 and 2017, he visited multiple banks, sometimes just minutes apart, to make 11 cash deposits of $9,000 each, evidence showed.
To conceal his pattern of cash transactions just shy of the $10,000 reporting requirement, he traveled to bank branches throughout Los Angeles County to make the cash transactions and tried to further conceal his conduct through the use of multiple accounts at multiple banks, evidence showed.