A Kula man arrested for allegedly impersonating a federal agent was described as a "con man," as he was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to an 18-month prison term and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Abraham Kantzabedian, 54, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor imposed the sentence on Kantzabedian, who had pleaded guilty to two counts of structuring cash deposits into financial institutions to evade federal reporting requirements.
According to information produced in court, Kantzabedian made 25 cash deposits totaling $55,300 from July 7, 2008, to Oct. 28, 2008, and 15 cash deposits totaling $45,650 from May 13, 2009, to June 22, 2009. All of the deposits were in amounts of less than $10,000, the level that triggers a requirement for financial institutions to file a currency transaction report with the Internal Revenue Service.
A federal investigation into Kantzabedian's activities began this year after a Maui police detective asked for help from the U.S. Secret Service in verifying whether Kantzabedian worked as a Treasury Department special agent. He had approached an off-duty Maui police detective Dec. 17 in Wailuku, saying he was a Treasury agent investigating international money terrorism, according to court documents.
"In a nutshell, Mr. Kantzabedian is a con man," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Song said in court Wednesday. "It seems like he has been living two to three different lives. He has been conning his family, friends and even his wife. And you really wouldn't expect this from a grown man."
After his arrest, his wife of five years told investigators that she believed that Kantzabedian had been a Treasury special agent since about 2003, and he "constantly told her that his work was confidential," according to court documents.
"The lies upon lies that he would tell everyone about his past just really shows that there is a mental issue that Mr. Kantzabedian needs to address," Song said. "And it seems that the motivating factor for this facade was simply greed. He made vulnerable people trust him and then took advantage of that to his own financial gain."
Song said Kantzabedian "wanted money, materialistic things and respect from others."
"His actions not only affected those close to him but also other real law enforcement officers because the community began to question law enforcement officers and if they really were who they really said they were," Song said.
A sentencing statement filed by defense attorney Philip Lowenthal said that Kantzabedian, "a Soviet Armenia refugee, a one-time Maui Police Department recruit, and an unemployed developer of an effective delinquent account collection system, was affecting the look and accoutrements of a secret agent as imagined by Hollywood."
"Mr. Kantzabedian almost always had an earbud with a wire leading to a pocket where presumably he had a special receiver to get messages from headquarters," according to the statement. "He generally wore military or hunters clothing available mostly by catalog. He fashioned an insignia or log for his collection business 'Revenue Recovery Forensics' that at first glance looked rather official."
The defense said Kantzabedian spent much of his time at Starbucks in Kahului, where he told actual Secret Service agents that he was a secret agent and was arrested.
Although Kantzabedian was initially arrested for impersonating an officer, the defense statement said it was difficult to find anything Kantzabedian had done to get something of value through the impersonation that he wouldn't otherwise have been entitled to, as is required to support the charge.
A witness reported selling a dog trained to detect explosives to Kantzabedian at a law enforcement discount price of $8,500. But the defense said the dog's attested value was $400 when it was brought to the United States from Australia and Kantzabedian hadn't asked for the discount, according to the defense.
The defense statement said the financial structuring by Kantzabedian was "consistent with his distrust of banks and penchant to be mysterious."
"Whatever monies Mr. Kantzabedian had from whatever source, work, gambling, loans or otherwise, he structured," the statement says. "This is the case before the court for which this otherwise harmless man is to be sentenced."
The dog was returned, according to the defense.
Kantzabedian also agreed to forfeit a 2008 Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle and a 2009 Porsche Cayenne S that were bought with a portion of the structured deposits.
Kantzabedian, who has been free on a $50,000 bond, was allowed to turn himself in Dec. 27 to begin serving the prison time.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.