A landlord arrested in an assassination attempt is now accused of trying to set fire to his building
- US News
- March 16, 2023
- No Comment
A real estate developer charged with murder faces new criminal charges in federal court where prosecutors claim the businessman also hired someone to set fire to one of his properties to evict his tenants.
In a federal indictment, prosecutors paint a vicious picture of Arthur Aslanian allegedly resorting to arson and beating men to settle business disputes and avoid paying millions of dollars in debt.
But plans began to unravel in September when federal agents, with the help of cooperating witnesses, 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 maintained his innocence. Aslanian was arrested last September and has been in custody since January on murder charges.
In September, federal prosecutors charged Aslanian with hiring an assassin to kill a banker to whom he owed around $3 million. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents also believed Aslanian set in motion a plot to kill his former attorney to avoid paying more than $250,000 in legal fees.
In order to trick the real estate developer into thinking the murder happened, ATF agents had Aslanian’s associates show his boss a photo of what they claimed was the dead banker. Instead, the photo was staged by authorities and the employee was equipped with recording equipment in order to establish criminal proceedings against his boss.
In a new court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department alleges Aslanian also agreed to pay someone $2,000 to set fire to one of his properties in North Hollywood, where tenants had accused Aslanian of being a slumlord and including harassment and threats apply to try to distribute them illegally.
Aslanian, a La Cañada Flintridge real estate developer with a growing portfolio and debt, is named in more than two dozen lawsuits and has had problems with local government agencies over violations of building permits, labor laws and non-payment of workers.
But his alleged conspiracy to hire a gang member to kill his former lawyer and a banker unraveled when the gang member went to the police instead of following through, according to court records.
Investigators believe this wasn’t the only violent conspiracy hatched by Aslanian.
Prosecutors allege that Aslanian and a co-conspirator went looking for someone to set fire to one of his rental properties at Block 11000 of Hartsook Street in North Hollywood in February 2022.
The apartment was empty, but it was adjacent to several bungalows rented by tenants Aslanian had been at odds with for months.
Some of the tenants who would eventually file a lawsuit against him claimed that Aslanian spent months trying to evict them illegally, exposing them to asbestos, mold and vermin, and tearing down walls to get them out.
The tenants claimed they repeatedly tried to get Aslanian and his company to fix the problems at the property, but were instead met with threats and harassment.
According to the federal indictment, Aslanian promised to pay someone $2,000 to set the property on fire.
Using a borrowed gas canister and a hotplate, a co-conspirator started a fire at the property on February 5, officials claim, but only the outside of the building was burned.
A second fire was set by another co-conspirator on March 18, 2022, burning down a vacant lot of the building.
In July 2022, tenants filed suit against him, alleging harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Aslanian continued to collect rent from tenants after the fire.
Court filings show the lawsuit was dismissed in October after the tenants reached a settlement with Aslanian.
Joseph W. Kellener, an attorney representing the tenants, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement due to a confidentiality provision in the agreement.
On Wednesday, federal officials also urged the court to hold Aslanian pending the conclusion of his trial, saying the businessman posed not only a flight risk but a community security risk. A hearing date for the new charges against Aslanian has not yet been set by the court.
Staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this article.