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Payroll company allegedly rips off business owners

Dozens of small-business owners owe hundreds of thousands in back taxes they thought were already paid.
February 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Dozens of small-business owners owe hundreds of thousands in back taxes they thought were already paid. They say a company they hired to pay those taxes ripped them off.

Robert and Melissa Meltzer, the owners of a children's fitness center in Mid-City, say for 7 years, the accounting firm they had contracted had been paying their payroll taxes to the IRS. Then came notice from the IRS that they were in default. Six months of funds they had sent to the firm disappeared along with the owner.

"It's devastating. We are a really small family-owned business, and for us to be on the hook for over $50,000 is a lot of money that we just don't have," said Robert Meltzer.

Zack Grey, the owner of L.A. Urban Pet Supply, says he lost $87,000.

"I was completely speechless. How could this have happened?" said Grey.

Eyewitness News has learned that federal agents have visited the Mid-Wilshire office of the accounting firm called L.A. Payroll, now defunct. A former employee tells us the inquiry centers on the company's owner, 56-year-old Tovmas Grigoryan.

Court documents show a bankruptcy filing in 2005. He claimed his annual income had been $25,000.

The former employee says Grigoryan left on vacation and never came back. But they knew there was a problem after the company received late tax notices from the state tax board and IRS and clients started receiving similar notices. They believe up to $4 million had been taken from 150 clients.

Grey showed us a paper trail. What appeared to be proof that his payroll taxes had been sent to the IRS and the state employment department turned out to be bogus.

We made repeated inquiries to the Los Angeles Police Department about this case. We have not heard back about whether or not they are carrying out an investigation. As for the FBI, a spokeswoman says they never confirm or deny any investigations.


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