Andriana Furs’ Sohrab Tebyanian pleads guilty to money laundering

January 24, 2009 by A.B. Dada  
Filed under Chicago Crime

Chicagoans of any age will remember the jingle of Andriana Furs’ television commercials, the ones that seem to have been videotaped in the 70s with a jingle just as old.  The fur store’s owner Sohrab Tebyanian, 62, of Chicago plead guilty in Federal court Friday to charges of money laundering in a conspiracy plot to launder illegal drug proceeds through his fur business.

Tebyanian was not charged in participating in the drug dealing.  The charges stem from his involvement helping the individuals who actually dealt drugs to launder money through his business by adding people to his payroll in a scheme known as ghost payrolling: the individuals paid don’t do any actual work.

Initially, the drug side of the case was investigated in Iowa, with charges filed there against three people who trafficked cocaine for a decade.  The three individuals, Mario Murray and his mother Jeanette, along with postal worker Tina Hollins, pled guilty in Davenport, IA in 2008.

andrianafurs2Mario Murray has a long association with crime dating back to 1996 when police found a gun and crack cocaine in his parents’ home, where he lived.  In 2000, Murray was stopped on I-80 in Illinois by Illinois State Police, who found $35,000 in cash in the back seat of the car.  Murray said the cash was to buy a car, but it was seized and the seizure was not disputed by Murray.

During the seizure of the cash in 2000, Murray had been working at Andriana Furs for 6 months, according to Tebyanian.  W-2 forms filed by Andriana Furs said that Murray was working for Andriana Furs from 2000 onward.  Tebyanian admitted in his guilty plea that Murray did not in fact work during the years he was paid as an employee of Andriana Furs.  He also admitted that the payroll checks were part of the laundering scheme.

Generally, criminals who launder money through businesses do so in a way that is hard to track.  They’ll purchase high ticket items, sometimes for more than the actual value (in this case, furs), with the profits of the sales laundered through the company and usually paid to third party individuals in the form of ghost payrolls.  In some situations, the items purchased will be sold back to the company at higher than wholesale prices, allowing more money to be laundered to the parties involved.

andrianafursTebyanian is represented in court by defense attorney Michael Monico.  Monico said on his client’s behalf that Andriana Furs will continue to stay in business in 3 locations in the Chicago area.  ”There is no question the business will continue to serve the community as it has for the last 20 years,” said Monico.  ”He is extremely remorseful and sorry for his actions. He looks forward to explaining to the court in detail the circumstances of this conduct.”

Prosecutors said that Tebyanian laundered $400,000 over the years, which could land him up to 57 months in prison. Tebyanian will be sentenced on April 16th, 2009 at 8:30am.  Federal Judge Wayne Andersen presided over the plea, with Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk negotiating the plea agreement with Tebyanian and his lawyer in the Chicago branch of the Federal  courts. 
Photos provided by Andriana Furs website.

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One Response to “Andriana Furs’ Sohrab Tebyanian pleads guilty to money laundering”
  1. Elizabeth Schulz says:

    We the employees at Andriana Furs we see Mr. Shorab Tebyanian, as a business savvy owner,who ensures our job security,especially in these challenging economic times.
    He is someone who we always experienced as a wonderful human being.
    Sincerely, Mrs. Elizabeth Schulz

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