PHANTOM-GRAVE SELLER NABBED
By Alex Dobuzinskis, Staff Writer

Los Angeles Daily News, CA
March 13 2006

GLENDALE - A former Forest Lawn employee who sold phantom grave
plots to unsuspecting buyers has been charged with grand theft and
embezzlement in a scheme that cost the alleged victims more than
$67,000, authorities said.

Robert Ovsepyan, 34, of Burbank was extradited from Armenia over the
weekend and is being held without bail. Prosecutors filed charges
against him while he was on the lam abroad, alleging he ripped off
people in 10 fraudulent sales of nonexistent grave plots.

Armenian authorities agreed to extradite Ovsepyan because he is a
U.S. citizen and overstayed his visa in Armenia. He faces a maximum
of 35 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

"It's good for the victims. ... They're going to feel good, they're
going to feel satisfied that justice prevailed," Glendale police Sgt.
Ian Grimes said.

"But I think it sends a larger message to people in Glendale and people
in Armenia that you're not going to be able to use one place to hide,
commit a crime in one place and hide in another."

Starting in November 2004, Ovsepyan allegedly supplemented his income
from Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, where he sold grave plots for a living,
by selling nonexistent plots as well. All the victims who bought them
from him were Armenian-Americans he knew.

The buyers complained to Forest Lawn when they never received paperwork
for the sales, and Forest Lawn cooperated with police when they
suspected fraud. Ovsepyan stopped showing up for work in October 2005.

The buyers were different ages and included individuals and entire
families. Their losses ranged from $3,000 to $14,000.

One elderly woman had been saving two years to buy a plot for herself,
hoping to keep from burdening her children, police said.

In a prepared statement, Forest Lawn officials said they are
cooperating with the Glendale Police Department.

"We are working with the families to achieve a swift resolution and
are taking all necessary steps to protect against future wrongdoing,"
read the statement attributed to John Warren, the senior vice
president of marketing for Forest Lawn. "Forest Lawn maintains a
strict confidentiality policy and wishes to reserve comment at this
time to protect the privacy of the families we serve."

Police are unsure how Ovsepyan decided who to engage in legitimate
sales and who to target for fraud.

"Some of them trusted him because of past association or relationship,"
financial crimes Detective Tigran Topadjhikyan said.

"One of the victims had a husband that was deceased, and Ovsepyan
was a friend of the husband's. So it was the association that built ...
the trust."