A real estate developer charged in a murder-for-hire plot is facing new criminal charges in federal court, where prosecutors allege the businessman also hired someone to set fire to one of his properties in an attempt to kick out his tenants.
In a federal indictment, prosecutors paint a vicious picture of Arthur Aslanian, who prosecutors allege resorted to arson and hit men to settle business disputes and avoid paying millions of dollars in debt.
But the plots began to unravel in September when, with the help of cooperating witnesses, federal agents concocted a plan that included creating a faked crime scene.
Aslanian’s attorney, Melanie Killedjian, declined to comment on the additional charges filed Wednesday but said in a short statement that her client denied all of the allegations and maintains his innocence. Aslanian was arrested last September and has been in custody since January on the murder-for-hire plot allegations.
In September, federal prosecutors accused Aslanian of hiring an assassin to kill a banker to whom he owed about $3 million. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also believed Aslanian had set a plan in motion to kill his former lawyer to avoid paying more than $250,000 in legal fees.
To fool the real estate developer into thinking that the killing had happened, ATF agents had Aslanian’s employee show his boss a photo of what was supposed to be the dead banker. Instead, the photo had been staged by authorities and the employee was equipped with recording devices to build the criminal case against his boss.
Now in a new court filing Wednesday, the Department of Justice alleges Aslanian also agreed to pay someone $2,000 to set fire to one of his properties in North Hollywood, where tenants had accused Aslanian of being a slumlord and using harassment and threats, among other tactics, to try to illegally evict them.
A real estate developer from La Cañada Flintridge with a growing portfolio, and debt, Aslanian and his companies are named in more than two dozen lawsuits and have faced troubles with local government agencies over violations of building permits, labor codes, and failing to pay workers.
But his alleged plot to hire a gang member to kill his former attorney and a banker unraveled when, instead of following through, the gang member went to police, according to court records.
Investigators believe that wasn’t the only violent plot that Aslanian had hatched.
Prosecutors allege that in February 2022, Aslanian and a co-conspirator set out to find someone who would set fire to one of his rental properties on the 11000 block of Hartsook Street in North Hollywood.
The unit was vacant but it neighbored several bungalows that were being rented by tenants that Aslanian had been feuding with for months.
Some of the tenants, who would eventually file a lawsuit against him, claimed Aslanian had been trying to illegally evict them for months, had exposed them to asbestos, mold and vermin, and had demolished walls to get them out.
The tenants alleged they had repeatedly tried to get Aslanian and his company to fix the problems at the property, but were instead met with threats and harassment.
According to the federal indictment, Aslanian allegedly promised to pay someone $2,000 to set fire to the property.
Using a borrowed gas canister and a hotplate, a co-conspirator started a fire at the property on Feb. 5, officials allege, but only the outside of the building was scorched.
A second fire was started by another co-conspirator on March 18, 2022, burning a vacant lot of the building.
In July 2022, tenants filed a suit against him, claiming harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Aslanian continued to demand rent from the tenants after the fire.
Court records show the lawsuit was dismissed in October after the tenants reached a deal with Aslanian.
Joseph W. Kellener, an attorney representing the tenants, declined to disclose the terms of the settlement due to a confidentiality provision in the agreement.
On Wednesday, federal officials also asked the court that Aslanian be detained until the end of his trial, stating that the businessman is not only a flight risk, but a safety risk to the community. An arraignment date for the new charges against Aslanian has not yet been set by the court.
Staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this article.