A Los Angeles man and his wife are being held without bail on charges they ran a large prostitution ring that brought women, primarily from Eastern Europe, to Southern California to work in the sex trade.
Mher "Mike" Hakopyan, 38; his current wife, Natalya Muravyeva, 31; and his ex-wife, Alla Kassianova, 43 were arrested Monday after a 10-month investigation by the Santa Monica Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations.
Hakopyan and Muravyeva were arrested Monday by federal agents and detectives from the Santa Monica Police Department. Investigators say they are still seeking Kassianova, who may be out of the country.
The trio allegedly used recruiters in Eastern Europe to find women interested in working as prostitutes, then purchased their plane tickets and coached them on how to enter the United States. Once in the Los Angeles area, they allegedly helped the women find housing and posted provocative pictures of them online.
The case references 14 women that Hakopyan, Muravyeva and Kassianova allegedly brought or attempted to bring to the U.S.
Local news outlets are reporting that an brothel was being run at units in a building at 2200 Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.
In the affidavit, Santa Monica detectives stated the units were allegedly occupied by Eastern European females who were engaging in prostitution in both units. Unit 635 was rented by Adzhemyan and unit 705 was rented by Ashot Hovakimyan. In the rental application for both units, Hakopyan was listed as an emergency point of contact.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said in a statement that she was pleased with her department's collaboration with federal authorities.
"If the allegations in this case prove true, the defendants' actions were reprehensible," she said.
Hakopyan and Muravyeva made their initial appearance in federal court in Santa Ana Monday afternoon. Both were ordered held without bail.
If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.