LA County Landlord Gets 20 Years for Murder-for-Hire Plots and Arson

LA County Landlord Gets 20 Years for Murder-for-Hire Plots and Arson

The U.S. District Court, Central District, in Los Angeles on Aug. 26, 2013. (Robin Kemker/Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 5/13/2024


A federal judge sentenced a landlord to 20 years in prison May 6 for trying to kill his former lawyer and another man, and for hiring someone to burn down an apartment complex to force low-income renters to leave.
Arthur Raffy Aslanian, 55, a real estate developer and property owner who lived in a mansion in La Cañada Flintridge, about 15 minutes north of Los Angeles, was found guilty in July 2023 of conspiring with his handyman to hire a hitman to kill two people and set fire to an apartment building he owned in North Hollywood.
Los Angeles District Court Judge Jesus Bernal sentenced Mr. Aslanian to federal prison and ordered him to pay $15,371 in restitution and a $200,000 fine.
The restitution was awarded to Mr. Aslanian’s former lawyer who represented him in a bankruptcy proceeding and was later a target in the landlord’s murder-for-hire scheme.
“The defendant thought he could get away with murder by financing a murder plot against two of his rivals,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada. “He will now serve a well-deserved lengthy prison sentence.”
Mr. Aslanian’s lawyer, Mark Young, billed his client for more than $261,000 in legal fees and expenses after winning a case for him and threatened to sue him if he didn’t pay.
At the time, Mr. Aslanian’s tenant, Shahram Elyaszadeh, sued him and won after the landlord tried to evict his parents from his Brentwood home.
According to news reports, Mr. Aslanian complained about his court ordeal with Mr. Elyaszadeh to his handyman and concrete polisher Sesar Rivera, 41, and told him he wished he could get rid of the guy.
The handyman took it literally, according to court documents reviewed by The Real Deal, a real estate news site. They later added Mr. Young to his list of targets.
In July 2022, a former employee of Mr. Rivera, Gaspar Pacheco, was released from prison and allegedly needed money and offered to kill someone for Rivera. It’s unclear whether Mr. Rivera was solicited to murder the lawyer and tenant, or if Mr. Pacheco offered first, according to news reports.
The price for both murders was set at $20,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Although Mr. Pacheco went along with the plan, he secretly recorded a portion of his meeting with Mr. Rivera and gave it to the police.
Law enforcement contacted the lawyer and tenant to warn them about the murder plots, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Authorities also contacted Mr. Rivera, who agreed to cooperate with them.
Mr. Aslanian was arrested after a September 2022 meeting with his handyman, during which Mr. Rivera showed him a staged murder photograph of Mr. Elyaszadeh.
During a five-day trial last year, a jury found Mr. Aslanian guilty of one count each of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot, conspiracy to commit arson, attempted arson, and arson of a building used in interstate commerce, according to the U.S. District Attorney in Los Angeles.
In a separate incident in March 2022, Mr. Aslanian used Mr. Rivera to pay someone a few hundred dollars to set fire to a rental property he owned in North Hollywood to force the remaining low-income tenants to leave, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A previous arson attempt at the same building was unsuccessful.
Mr. 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 and is expected to be sentenced July 8.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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