UPDATED: Federal Prosecutor Booted From Controversial Organized-Crime Case
A U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor--who aggressively pursued a Los Angeles-based, Armenian organized-crime investigation with tentacles in Orange County but ran afoul of a federal magistrate--has been removed from the case.
Though exceptionally rare inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, the personnel move wasn't exactly surprising.
Assistant United States Attorney Todd T. Tristan found his work called intolerantly sloppy and irresponsible by normally unflappable Judge Arthur Nakazato, who angrily told the prosecutor there would be a cost if he had wrongly smeared the reputation of Sam Solaykan.
The Glendale businessman has attempted to pay nearly $2 million in bail for Suren Gambaryan, the alleged mastermind in the massive identity-theft ring that filed nearly 3,000 fraudulent IRS income-tax-refund forms seeking to loot the treasury of $20 million.
Solakyan--who has routinely showered gifts on police agencies in California and obtained a police badge from a discredited, two-person police agency hundreds of miles from his home--hired ex-Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley to be the civil attorney for his Global Holdings Inc.
After blocking Solakyan's move by questioning the sources of his income and describing him as "a target" in the ongoing Department of Justice/IRS Criminal Division probe, Tristan--mindful of Nakazato's threat--eventually retreated from his accusation.
UPDATE: Judge Nakazato then determined that "a misleading" Tristan needlessly forced Sam Dordulian of Los Angeles to appear in the Orange County case by subpoena and ordered the prosecutor to personally pay the attorney pal of Solakyan $1,200 for wasting his time, a move that could trigger a California State Bar probe as well as an internal DOJ ethics review.
A well-respected member of the federal bench, Nakazato said Tristan's repeated assertions under oath about Solakyan weren't just wrong, but "reckless . . . innuendos" designed to trick the court, according to records.
The judge had nothing but compliments for IRS Criminal Division special agents working on the investigation.
Tristan, who also earned praise from Nakazato for the overall strength of his identity theft case, told the Weekly, "I continue to have the utmost respect for U.S. Magistrate Judge Nakazato and the other members of the federal judiciary throughout the Central District of California, and I will diligently work to meet and exceed the standards that they require from all Assistant United States Attorneys."
Replacing Tristan on the case are prosecutors Dennise D. Willett, chief of the Santa Ana branch of the DOJ, and Fred W. Slaughter.
Thom Mrozek, public-affairs officer for the DOJ in Los Angeles, declined to comment for this story.
[This news article originally appeared online at 10:43 a.m. today.]
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts