The sensational federal corruption trial for a former FBI agent in counterintelligence is slated to open in Los Angeles next week and will lay bare details of a sprawling case that accuses him of selling access to top-secret classified intelligence to the Armenia Mafia —including information about Muammar Gaddafi’s reputed hidden treasure in Africa—in exchange for cash, vacations, a motorcycle and the services of a sex worker.
Special Agent Babak Broumand, a 20-year FBI veteran, is charged in a six-count federal bribery indictment alleging he passed sensitive national security information to a Rodeo Drive lawyer. who is also an admitted Armenian mobster, to aid the crime syndicate. Members of this crime alliance are largely migrants from former Soviet countries who settled in Burbank, Glendale and North Hollywood. Prosecutors allege Broumand even offered, for a price, to remove Iranians from a no-fly list and laundered his ill-gotten cash through Love Bugs, an unlicensed lice removal salon he owned with his wife.
Attorney Edgar Sargsyan was a mover-shaker who drove a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, owned a Calabasas estate, partied with Qatari royalty, contributed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign coffers and liked to show off his selfies with former President Barack Obama.
The alliance between the FBI special agent and the admitted Armenian mobster with a law degree was born in the smoky Grand Havana Room, a members-only, fancy cigar bar; Sargsyan was a member, along with Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicolson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a slew of other Hollywood industry giants. Sargsyan would later tell investigators he invited Broumand to the club in September 2014 and immediately noticed the agent “had expensive tastes,” with a Gucci belt around his waist, a gold Rolex glistening on his wrist, and gray hair perfectly coiffed.
An easy mark, Sargsyan said, for recruitment.
“[Sargsyan] began cultivating a friendship with Broumand and the relationship turned corrupt in the beginning of 2015,” prosecutors say. This was after the mob lawyer asked the FBI agent if he was “willing to do a little something on the side.” Broumand agreed to $10,000 a month in cash and cashier’s checks, according to prosecutors.
At the time, Broumand was a supervisor in the San Francisco field office overseeing other agents in HUMINT, the FBI section responsible for developing human sources to prevent terrorism. Prosecutors say Broumand “devised a scheme” to document Sargsyan as a confidential informant to justify his suspicious queries about various Armenian crime figures.
His first payment, prosecutors say, came after he queried Sargsyan’s name and learned that he was the subject of the FBI Eurasian Crime Task Force Organization’s investigation into a massive identity theft scheme the Armenian Mafia was running, which stole the names of J-1 visa holders who’d left the U.S. to open credit cards, then running up millions in debt.
Broumand knew these queries would raise eyebrows in the bureau, so he told Sargsyan if he was ever questioned, he should say he was “providing intelligence” on Armenian crime lords. To bolster that backstory, prosecutors say, Broumand flew from Oakland to Los Angeles on January 30, 2015, to meet with agents targeting his Armenian friends. He took an Uber Black on the taxpayer dime to the FBI field office on Wilshire Boulevard where, in the cafeteria, Special Agent Stephen Kusin was waiting.
Kusin was immediately struck by Broumand’s cocksure swagger and mobster-wannabe attire “including a bracelet and cuff links”—a guy who the task force agent recalled, “did not look like an FBI agent.” Broumand talked about his source but balked when Kusin pressed for a meeting; the conversation ended.
Outside, Sargsyan was waiting behind the wheel of a Bentley. Broumand, sweaty and nervous, climbed into the passenger seat, the lawyer told investigators, and blurted: “We barely got away with that one.”
What Happens In Vegas…
The staggering accusations leveled at such a high-ranking federal official have been kept surprisingly quiet—that is, until his name became associated with a separate case involving a polygamist Mormon cult in Utah and Sargsyan’s boss, Levon Termendzhyan, the reputed leader of the Los Angeles Armenian Mafia. The polygamists and the mob boss were convicted in connection with a $1 billion fraud involving bogus biofuel tax credits. [Read more on that case in the forthcoming November 2022 issue of Los Angeles].
Sargsyan began cooperating with the government and is now at the center of several prosecutions with worldwide implications, including a biofuel scheme that was protected, prosecutors say, by an Armenian Mafia-funded “team of corrupt law enforcement officers.” Among them is Department of Homeland Security Agent Felix Cisneros, who was found guilty in May on charges he helped the Armenians spirit shady business associates into the U.S., including a Mexican cartel boss.
Another Glendale narcotics detective, John Saro Balian, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after prosecutors say he admitted to providing information to the Mexican Mafia, which allowed an associate of the prison gang to escape justice, and repeatedly misled investigators probing his connections to both the Mexican and Armenian Mafia. Balian was living two personal lives as well—married to a woman in Seal Beach and having an affair with the girlfriend of another drug cartel leader, prosecutors say, and maintaining separate bank accounts for both.
Sargsyan told prosecutors that the officers on his payroll spent a lot of time together and “he paid for everybody, [as] they were law enforcement people”—and therefore keeping him out of jail. There were private jet flights to Las Vegas, ringside seats at prize fights, boozy dinners in Beverly Hills, and bankrolled vacations. After Cisneros and Balian were arrested, the FBI agent tried to cover up his associations with the duo, writing false official documents to conceal his relationship with both, while knowing the lawyer had snapped photographs of their jet setting.
These photos are now entered into the official court records.
Even after Sargsyan flipped on his friends and started talking—and after Broumand’s cop buddies were shipped off to federal prison, the agent somehow remained a free man, allowed to retire in Jan. 2019 with a full taxpayer-funded pension. He wasn’t arrested until March 2020—weeks after Sargsyan’s boss was convicted in the biofuel fraud case.
Broumand’s attorney, Steven Gruel, a former federal prosecutor, insists that his client is innocent, and his decorated career fighting terrorism is being sullied by Sargsyan, who he calls a “convicted organized crime associate, con-man, and disgraced attorney.” Sargsyan may have “convinced the prosecution that the names and information provided by him to Mr. Broumand was a bribery scheme,” Gruel wrote. But the truth is much more complicated, he argues, given Sargsyan’s associations to shot callers in the Mexican Mafia, and allegations that he was acting as a messenger for imprisoned gang leaders during attorney-client meetings in jail.
Gruel is also arguing that prosecutors should be prohibited from tantalizing a jury with more salacious details of the allegations contained in court records, including his dalliance with a high-class sex worker. “Nearly all jurors would morally condemn Mr. Broumand’s conduct in having an extramarital affair with an escort,” he wrote.
Broumand’s wife, Malaina, who is an attorney, is also facing federal charges for her role, as she was using laundered bribe monies and a fraudulent paper trail when the couple purchased a second home in Lake Tahoe with cash the government says he pocketed from his illegal side gig.
Gaddafi Treasure Hunt
Among the more serious allegations that prosecutors have leveled against Broumand is how he shared classified intelligence garnered from one of his HUMINT sources, a former Libyan general, about a massive fortune Gaddafi is rumored to have smuggled out of the country before the Arab Spring. This allegedly included boxes of money earmarked to fund an arms deal hidden somewhere in Africa. Broumand was “sharing the FBI’s confidential reporting about the Gaddafi money” He wanted Sargsyan to use his private jet to fly into Africa to “retrieve and skim the money,” prosecutors said, which could be in the tens of millions.
Broumand even queried the term “Gaddafi money” in the FBI’s Sentinel database to gather intel on the hidden treasure, prosecutors say.
“The prosecution claims Mr. Broumand improperly used FBI resources for his personal purposes including alleged use of FBI source information…to attempt to obtain from Africa cash purportedly belonging to Muammar Gaddafi,” Gruel wrote, adding that the Armenians didn’t bite so no bribes were paid. “Rumors or alleged schemes to find Ghaddafi’s millions has nothing to do with the issues before the Jury.”
The government disagrees, however, writing in court records that the late Libyan leader’s money is yet another example of Broumand’s “use and misuse of governmental resources for personal and financial gain while acting in concert,” with the Armenian mob.
No Such Thing As Free Parking
The takedown of the fast-living, hard-partying coterie of crooked cops came, ironically, with a traffic stop.
In February 2016, Sargsyan was a passenger in a Cadillac Escalade with no plates when he was pulled over by a Glendale cop. As the uniformed officer approached, the lawyer shoved the FBI placard out the window muttering that the SUV had no plates because it was “sometimes used for law enforcement purposes,” and handed over an FBI parking placard as proof.
The cop flipped it over to find Broumand’s card taped to the back. Suspicious that a national security agent for the FBI would be so careless, the cop called the San Francisco field office. When Broumand was called in by his supervisors; however, prosecutors say, “he claimed that he was using his relationship [with the lawyer] to develop potential sources for the FBI.”
In December 2018, the FBI raided Broumand’s house on a hilly dead-end street in the Bay Area, his Lake Tahoe vacation house, and Love Bugs.
Weeks later, Broumand retired with his full pension and landed another gig as an investigator at Cal-Berkeley, a job he left in 2021, writing on his LinkedIn page: “I’m hanging up my spurs after 20+ years of convincing people to do what they didn’t want to. I’m officially retired!”
His profile also sported a photo of himself smiling. Below this image is a message to his supporters: “A big thank you to all my true friends.”
It’s still to be seen how many of those “true friends” will appear in the witness box in the blockbuster trial.
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