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L.A.-based developer Arthur Aslanian has been arrested for attempting to hire a hit man to kill a banker and an attorney that he collectively owed about $3.25 million, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

With the aid of an L.A. gang member whom Aslanian’s associate, Sesar Rivera, approached to do the jobs, police were able to prevent the murders and indict Aslanian and Rivera on charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire.

Aslanian owed the banker, who was only identified by the initials S.E. in court documents, $3 million from a dispute involving a Brentwood property that had resulted in years of litigation. Instead of paying his debts, Aslanian sought to have the banker killed.

When agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) learned of the plot, an undercover agent posing as an associate of the gang member was able to bring Rivera to the police’s side as well, so that they could obtain evidence of Aslanian incriminating himself and avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

After outfitting Rivera with microphones, ATF agents recorded Aslanian confirming the identity of the banker, whom agents had made up to look as if he was bloodied and dead, for photographic proof that Aslanian had requested from Rivera. The banker, however, was actually alive and well.

Meanwhile, ATF agents had warned the attorney that Aslanian was after (because he did not want to pay the $250,000 in legal fees he owed the attorney from bankruptcy proceedings) that a hit was out on his life. The attorney, Mark Young, had last contacted Aslanian in April via a letter about the debt to be paid, and notified Aslanian that he could be sued for not settling his debt.

Young was prepared to go into hiding, but once agents found out that Aslanian prioritized the hit on the banker, they told him he could be a bit more at ease.

“I was scared,” Young told the L.A. Times. “I didn’t know whether I should go into witness protection or something. When I told my wife, we were shaken and spent the next three nights at a hotel.”

Aslanian owns a number of properties in North Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, several of which are residential rentals. Some tenants that spoke with the L.A. Times were not surprised to hear of Aslanian’s legal troubles, calling him a “slumlord.”

Married tenants of one of Aslanian’s bungalow complexes Jonpaul Rodriguez and Clare Letmon, who are currently on a rent strike, said that Aslanian has deliberately allowed the property to fall into disrepair so that he can raze it and then build a larger complex. Empty bungalows on the complex have been occupied by raccoons, some of the homes are boarded up and red-tagged (an indication that the home isn’t safe for residents), while charred remains from a March fire are also scattered throughout the property.

Aslanian’s legal troubles also aren’t confined to the murder-for-hire case. In 1998 he was charged with a misdemeanor for not paying more than $100,000 to workers who completed repairs on a homeless shelter in Koreatown. Then, in 2007, one of his companies was put on probation for a year after it was found to have violated city building permit regulations.

In total, Aslanian and his companies have been named defendants in more than two dozen lawsuits, according to court records.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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