Courtroom - Photo courtesy of David Veksler on Unsplash

A La Cañada Flintridge real estate developer who allegedly planned to hire a gang member to kill two rivals pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges.

Arthur Aslanian, 53, is charged in a federal indictment with one count each of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Also facing the same charges is Sesar Rivera, 40, of North Hollywood, Aslanian’s employee and alleged co-conspirator, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Trial is set for Nov. 22. If convicted of all charges, each defendant would face up to 20 years in federal prison, prosecutors noted.

Nobody was injured in the case.

According to the indictment, Rivera met with an individual in April and said that a real estate businessman named Arthur wanted to pay the person to kill two people — identified in the indictment as S.E. and M.Y. — who were involved in litigation against him.

M.Y. was a lawyer who represented Aslanian in a bankruptcy proceeding in which Aslanian had prevailed but then refused to pay $220,000 in legal fees and expenses to M.Y.’s law firm, according to court documents.

Earlier this year, M.Y.’s law firm filed paperwork to mediate the dispute and prepared to sue Aslanian if the mediation failed.

S.E. had defeated Aslanian in court, after Aslanian tried to take possession of the Brentwood home in which S.E.’s parents lived, documents filed in Los Angeles federal court state.

In July, Rivera again allegedly met with the individual and said Arthur wanted the killing done as soon as possible. Rivera showed the individual information about M.Y., according to federal prosecutors.

The individual secretly recorded a portion of the July in-person meeting on his phone and provided a copy of the recording to law enforcement, according to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.

Rivera also promised the individual that Aslanian would pay $20,000 for the murder once Rivera had photographic proof that the killing had been committed, court papers allege.

Law enforcement warned M.Y. and S.E. of the murder plots against them. Rivera was detained and questioned, and later agreed to cooperate, court documents show.

Aslanian was arrested shortly after a Sept. 15 meeting in which Rivera displayed a staged murder photograph of S.E., prosecutors say.

Following his arrest, Aslanian was ordered jailed without bond. Rivera made his initial court appearance on Sept. 19 and is free on $20,000 bond. His arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 25.

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