A real estate developer charged with murder-for-hire plot is facing new criminal charges in federal court, where prosecutors allege the businessman also hired someone to burn down one of his properties in an attempt to evict its tenants.
In a federal indictment, prosecutors paint a vicious image of Arthur Aslanian, who prosecutors say resorted to arson and hit men to settle business disputes and avoid paying millions of dollars in debt.
But the plots began to unravel in September when, with the help of cooperating witnesses, federal agents devised a plan that included creating a fake crime scene.
Aslanian’s attorney, Melanie Killedjian, declined to comment on the additional charges filed Wednesday, but said in a brief statement that her client denied all the allegations and maintains his innocence. Aslanian was arrested last September and has been in custody since January on the murder-for-hire plot charges.
In September, federal prosecutors charged Aslanian with hiring a hit man to kill a banker to whom he owed about $3 million. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also believed Aslanian had put a plan in motion to kill his former attorney to avoid paying more than $250,000 in legal fees.
To trick the real estate developer into thinking the murder had occurred, ATF agents had Aslanian’s employee show his boss a photo of what was assumed to be the dead banker. Instead, the photo had been staged by the authorities and the employee was equipped with recording devices to build the criminal case against his boss.
Now, in a new court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department alleges Aslanian also agreed to pay someone $2,000 to burn down one of his North Hollywood properties, where tenants had accused Aslanian of being a slum landlord and to use harassment and threats, among other tactics. , to try to evict them illegally.
A La Canada Flintridge real estate developer with a growing portfolio and debt, Aslanian and his companies are named in more than two dozen lawsuits and have faced problems with local government agencies over violations of building permits, labor codes, and lack of payment to workers. .
But his alleged plot to hire a gang member to kill his former lawyer and a banker fell apart when, instead of going through with it, the gang member went to police, according to court records.
Investigators believe that this was not the only violent plot that Aslanian had hatched.
Prosecutors allege that in February 2022, Aslanian and a co-conspirator set out to find someone who would burn down one of their rental properties in the 11000 block of Hartsook Street in North Hollywood.
The unit was unoccupied but adjoined several bungalows that were being rented by tenants Aslanian had been feuding with for months.
Some of the tenants, who would eventually file a lawsuit against him, claimed that Aslanian had been trying to illegally evict them for months, exposing them to asbestos, mold and vermin, and demolishing walls to get them out.
The tenants alleged that they had repeatedly tried to get Aslanian and his company to fix problems at the property, but instead received threats and harassment.
According to the federal indictment, Aslanian allegedly promised to pay someone $2,000 to burn down the property.
Using a borrowed gas canister and a hot plate, an accomplice started a fire at the property on February 5, authorities allege, but only the exterior of the building burned.
Another co-conspirator started a second fire on March 18, 2022, burning down a vacant lot in the building.
In July 2022, the tenants filed a lawsuit against him alleging harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Aslanian continued to demand rent from tenants after the fire.
Court records show the lawsuit was dismissed in October after the tenants settled with Aslanian.
Joseph W. Kellener, an attorney representing the tenants, declined to disclose the terms of the agreement because of a confidentiality provision in the agreement.
On Wednesday, federal officials also asked the court for Aslanian to be detained until the end of his trial, saying the businessman not only poses a flight risk but also a risk to the safety of the community. The court has not yet set an arraignment date for the new charges against Aslanian.
Staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this article.