News National LA cocaine kingpin admits sending bulk shipments to Australia

LA cocaine kingpin admits sending bulk shipments to Australia

Joe Amine's lawyer says his client had no idea whatsoever about the parcel's contents. Photo: Shutterstock
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A Los Angeles man has admitted his role in a cocaine trafficking operation that attempted to fool Australian and US authorities by “suspending” the drug in grease and hiding it in household goods.

US prosecutors said Vardges Markosyan, 47, of North Hollywood, faces a life prison sentence after agreeing to plead guilty in the federal court in Los Angeles to conspiring to smuggle approximately 40kg of cocaine to Australia.

Markosyan admitted in his plea agreement cocaine was suspended in grease and placed in empty air compressors, tankless water heaters, lamps stands, air conditioners and log splitters.

The shipments were then sent via commercial carrier to Australia, where they were distributed, court documents state.

Prosecutors, citing one shipment, said Markosyan admitted to using FedEx in March, 2015, to send 9.87 kg of cocaine hidden in a log splitter to Australia.

Markosyan also admitted in his plea agreement that he conspired with his sister, Iren Markosyan, to launder the proceeds of the drug trafficking.

Prosecutors said the brother and sister obtained hard-money loans secured against properties they bought and spent the net proceeds of the loans after transferring them to various accounts.

Markosyan has agreed to forfeit to the US government his interest in a Studio City property, a 1996 Carver 38 boat and a 2005 Caribe boat all held in his sister’s name.

Markosyan has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to engage in money laundering charges.

Iren Markosyan pleaded guilty on May 13 to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The FBI, the IRS and other US authorities thanked NSW Police, the NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police for their assistance in the investigation.