Federal agents staged an elaborate fake murder photograph to catch a man who they suspected of plotting to kill two business associates to avoid millions of pounds in debt.
Real estate developer Arthur Aslanian, based in Los Angeles, California, had allegedly hired a hitman to assassinate a lawyer and a banker to whom he owed over $3 million.
— Hector Becerra (@hbecerraLATimes) September 30, 2022
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, federal agents produced a fake photograph of a murder scene as a ruse to catch Aslanian in September.
In the staged photograph, the supposedly dead body of the banker that he hoped to kill lies slain on a patch of grass.
There appears to be a bullet wound in the “murdered” banker’s right ear and his white shirt is stained with blood.
Aslanian’s assistant showed the staged photograph to him as proof that one of the men had been killed — while federal investigators were secretly recording the conversation all along.
Aslanian looked at the fake photograph and verified he was the correct victim: “That’s him.”
According to federal prosecutors, the real estate developer then told his assistant to destroy the photograph and never speak about the murder again.
Los Angeles Times reports Aslanian was arrested the same day, charged with planning to kill the business associate in the photograph, as well as an attorney who had once represented him in a bankruptcy case.
Prosecutors allege Aslanian opted to have the men killed instead of paying the millions of dollars he owed to the associate and a smaller debt to his former lawyer.
After his arrest, Aslanian was ordered held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
However last month, Aslanian’s defense attorneys put together a multimillion-dollar bond package meant to secure his release as he awaited trial.
This prompted the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles to file the staged murder photo as powerful evidence that he should be refused bail.
According to court papers objecting to Aslanian’s release that were obtained by Los Angeles Times, prosecutors write “It [The murder] was real to him. He wanted [the victim] dead and was satisfied when the murder appeared to have been accomplished,”
“It was real to him. He wanted [the victim] dead and was satisfied when the murder appeared to have been accomplished,” prosecutors wrote.
Despite the plea from Young and prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin agreed to release Aslanian on December 5 on a $1.9 million bond, saying the government had failed to prove that Aslanian was a risk of flight or a danger to the community.
Image credits: All photos by U.S. District Court.