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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Central District of California
E. Martin Estrada, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Monday, May 6, 2024

La Cañada Flintridge Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Murder-for-Hire Plots and Committing Arson to Apartment Building

RIVERSIDE, California – A San Gabriel Valley man was sentenced today to 240 months in federal prison for hiring a hitman in an attempt to kill two men – his former lawyer and a long-time litigation opponent – and for hiring someone to burn a North Hollywood apartment complex he owned to force its low-income residents to leave.

Arthur Raffy Aslanian, 55, of La Cañada Flintridge, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, who also ordered Aslanian to pay $15,371 in restitution and fined him $200,000.

At the conclusion of a five-day trial, a jury in July 2023 found Aslanian guilty of one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, one count of conspiracy to commit arson, one count of attempted arson, and one count of arson of a building used in interstate commerce.

“This defendant thought he could get away with murder by financing a murder plot against two of his rivals,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “He will now serve a well-deserved lengthy prison sentence. This case should serve as a cautionary tale to those who would resort to violence to settle their disputes: You will be caught and the consequences will be severe.”

Aslanian conspired with Sesar Rivera, 41, of North Hollywood, to hire a hitman to murder two people – identified in court documents as “M.Y.” and “S.E.”

M.Y. was a lawyer who represented Aslanian in a bankruptcy proceeding in which Aslanian had prevailed but then refused to pay more than $261,000 in legal fees and expenses to M.Y.’s law firm. In April 2022, M.Y. sent a demand letter to Aslanian requesting to mediate the dispute and stating he was prepared to sue Aslanian if the mediation failed.

S.E. was a litigant who defeated Aslanian in court after Aslanian tried to take possession of the Brentwood home in which S.E.’s parents lived.

In April 2022, Rivera – Aslanian’s then-employee – met with an individual who was a gang member and convicted felon. Rivera told the individual that a real estate businessman named “Arthur” wanted to pay him to kill M.Y. and S.E.

In July 2022, Rivera again met with the individual and said “Arthur” wanted the killing done as soon as possible. Rivera showed the individual information about M.Y. The individual secretly recorded a portion of this July 2022 in-person meeting on his phone and provided a copy of the recording to law enforcement. Rivera also promised the individual that Aslanian would pay $20,000 for the murder once Rivera had photographic proof the murder had been committed.

On August 10, 2022, Rivera again met with the individual and told him to focus on murdering S.E. before killing M.Y. On August 19, 2022, Rivera used the Facebook Messenger application to send the individual a multimedia message with a screenshot of victim S.E.’s Facebook profile, including S.E.’s picture and business name, to assist the individual in locating and murdering S.E.

Law enforcement contacted and warned M.Y. and S.E. of the murder plots.

On September 7, 2022, law enforcement detained and questioned Rivera, who later agreed to cooperate with them.

Aslanian was arrested shortly after a September 15, 2022, meeting in which Rivera showed him a staged murder photograph of S.E.

“ATF saved the lives of two individuals in this case,” said Christopher Bombardiere, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. “We will continue to work tirelessly to seek out and build cases against these violent criminals who have no moral compass and instead are driven by greed.”

In a separate incident in March 2022, Aslanian, through Rivera, paid an individual a few hundred dollars for successfully setting fire to a rental property in North Hollywood he owned so the remaining low-income tenants would be forced to leave the property. A previous attempted arson of the building in February 2022 was unsuccessful.

Rivera pleaded guilty in March 2023 to one count of conspiracy and one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each count at his July 8 sentencing hearing.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin J. Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, Kevin B. Reidy of the Major Frauds Section, and Eli A. Alcaraz of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section prosecuted this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

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