Vagan Adzhemyan
Vagan Adzhemyan

Vagan Adzhemyan, Former Champion Armenia Wrestler, Gets 30 Years for Violent Kidnapping

A former Armenia wrestling champion living in Costa Mesa was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for kidnapping a business associate who was accidentally shot during the abduction before being beaten, tased and denied medical attention while his captor negotiated a $1 million ransom.

"No one deserves what defendants did to him," said U.S. District Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen of Vagan Adzhemyan and his crime partner--as well as the victim--during sentencing Monday afternoon in her Los Angeles courtroom.

During the early morning hours of July 29, 2009, Sandro Karmryan was abducted from an underground parking garage at a Van Nuys apartment building where his parents lived. A friend who had been violently assaulted during the kidnapping retrieved a gun Karmryan used for self-defense in an attempt to intervene, but Karmryan was accidentally shot.

Adzhemyan and his partner, Galvin Shaun Gibson, shocked Karmryan with a stun gun before forcing him into a waiting vehicle. In need of medical attention, Karmryan was bound and forced to wear a blindfold for the next five days while being held at various Southern California locations that included a townhouse on East Fifth Street in Ontario and a restaurant Gibson owned, Avenue Grills on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles. Duing his captivity, Karmryan was repeatedly beaten, taking especially heavy blows to the abdomen. Meanwhile, an infection from the gunshot wound was nearly killing him.

He was nonetheless forced to make calls to family members and close associates in Southern California and Russia to secure a $1 million ransom in exchange for his safe release. On Aug. 3, 2009, Karmryan was blindfolded at Gibson's Mira Loma home while the man of the house and three pit bulls stood watch as Adzhemyan and a third baddie, Suren Garibyan, used Karmryan's ATM card to withdraw cash from his bank account.

Los Angeles Police Department SWAT officers swooped in for a daring rescue, and all three captors were arrested. Authorities also discovered the entire second floor of Gibson's home had been converted into a large scale marijuana growing and drying operation. Karmryan was rushed to a hospital where he remained for nearly two months and underwent three surgeries. He would have died were he not rescued at that time, the doctor who treated him testified.

However, the jury deadlocked 6-6 in 44-year-old Adzhemyan's first trial, and a mistrial was declared.

The defense argued Adzhemyan's actions were necessary because he was trying to prove Karmryan paid a Russia mafia boss $27,000 to kill the former wrestler, who knew about an alleged loan scam.

Recordings of Adzhemyan's Karmryan interrogations, which were captured on cell phones and other audio devices, were played to jurors, who heard Karmryan admit more than 100 times to hiring a hit man.

Prosecutors countered that the confessions were coerced, and Judge Nguyen prevented that evidence from being presented during the second trial, ruling it was irrelevant to whether Adzhemyan kidnapped and nearly killed Karmryan.

That left the defendant with little defense, his lawyer Harald Braun complained.

Last year, Adzhemyan and 33-year-old Gibson were convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and kidnapping, and Gibson was also found guilty of operating a marijuana grow at his house. He received a 27-year sentence from Nguyen. In April 2010, the judge sentenced Garibyan, 34, of North Hollywood, to 17 1/2 years in federal prison. While imposing the 360-month sentence on Adzhemyan, Nguyen remarked that he showed "no conscience or remorse."

It's a steep fall for the Armenian-born championship wrestler, who competed for Armenia and the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The investigation into the kidnapping was conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division and the FBI's Violent Crimes Squad. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney E. Martin Estrada and Justice Department Trial Attorney Cristina M. Moreno.

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