Kirk Vartanian Sentenced to Probation in Grand Theft Case

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According to a story by the Fresno Bee, Krikor “Kirk” Vartanian was sentenced Thursday to five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service in connection with his no-contest plea in Fresno County Superior Court to felony grand theft involving business dealings at his failed luxury car dealership in north Fresno.

Where Vartanian does his community service and how much he owes to more than a dozen victims is still undecided, a judge said.

Prosecutors contend Vartanian owes about $790,000 to more than a dozen customers of his closed Auto Gallery after they accused him of taking their money between March 2007 and November 2008.

Among the victims is former Fresno State women’s basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein and her husband, Charles. According to arrest warrant documents, the couple paid Vartanian $225,000 for a Bentley but received neither the car nor a refund.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Ralph Nunez said restitution to the victims is being reserved because Vartanian’s lawyers, Dan Bacon and David Balakian, contend their client doesn’t owe $790,000. The lawyers, however, couldn’t say for sure how much Vartanian owes.

In addition, Vartanian now lives in Las Vegas, so Nunez said it will be up to Fresno County’s Probation Department to determine whether Vartanian does his community service there or in Fresno County, as the prosecution wants. During the hearing, Vartanian only said “Yes, your honor” when Nunez asked him whether he understood the terms of his probation. Among the terms is that his property, including financial records, are subject to search and seizure by law enforcement without a warrant.

In July, Vartanian pleaded no contest to one felony count of grand theft. In exchange, 14 other felony grand theft charges were dismissed. One grand theft count was dismissed for insufficient evidence.

The plea deal included no prison or jail time for Vartanian, but if he violates terms of probation he could do some of his time behind bars.

Vartanian, 42, used to operate several restaurants and nightclubs in Fresno, but now is looking for a job in Las Vegas, Bacon said.

He has been in the spotlight ever since he was the subject of a five-year federal investigation into possible point-shaving involving the Fresno State men’s basketball team in 1996-97. Vartanian denied any wrongdoing and never was charged, but trouble has followed him.

In 2009, Fresno police arrested him after his wife said he slapped her, threatened her with a kitchen knife, and tried to suffocate her with a pillow inside their northeast Fresno home. A judge later dismissed the case after Natasha Vartanian said she would not testify against him. His wife divorced him last year, court records show.

The article from the Fresno Bee can be found at http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/11/03/2601229/kirk-vartanian-gets-probation.html

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