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Carl Kanowsky: How one man converted a new Bentley into cash

Posted: November 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Areg Khachikian owned a 2000 Bentley but still owed the finance company, Los Angeles Federal Credit Union, a ton of money. (As I’m sure you know, buying a Bentley is a bit more of a commitment than purchasing a Honda Civic.)

Areg bought the luxury mobile in August 2008, with the Credit union providing $136,000 in financing. Importantly, Areg got car insurance through Allstate but did not name the Credit union as an insured, and the Credit union never followed up to make sure that they were added.

Who knows, maybe Areg got a great deal on the car or else he’s a poor driver, but shortly after buying the car it needed repairs. Areg went to a body shop owned and operated by Edgar and Elvis Madatyan to get an estimate for repair. The Madatyans said there was $40,000 in damage.

Areg, being an enterprising man, sent the estimate to Allstate. Allstate confirmed the extent of the damage and agreed to pay the $40,000. Now, this is where it gets interesting.

Allstate sent Khachikian a check for that amount, naming Khachikian and the body shop as payees, but not the Credit union.

Then, according to the Court of Appeal decision, “Khachikian took the insurance check to the body shop and asked Edgar to endorse it. Edgar went with Khachikian to Bank of America to obtain a signature guarantee of Edgar’s endorsement. Edgar endorsed the check on behalf of the body shop. Khachikian left the bank without cashing the check. Edgar did not know Khachikian before Khachikian brought his car to the body shop. Edgar did not know that the Credit union had a lien on Khachikian’s car before he endorsed the check.”

Apparently after going to Bank of America, Edgar never saw Areg again and the Madatyans never did any work on the car. The $40,000 check was cashed, however.

Areg stopped making the car payments. The Credit union repossessed the Bentley, who then learned that the car needed actually $47,000 worth of repairs. Areg then declared bankruptcy.

The result? Areg got to use a $100,000-plus car for several months, apparently for free, and then pocketed $40,000 for repairs that never happened. And, I guess, even though the decision does not say this, Areg escaped paying anything on the car by filing bankruptcy.

What happened to the Madatyans? They got sued by the Credit union for conversion of the insurance check. And, perhaps surprisingly, the trial court and the Court of Appeal both agreed that the Madatyans had to pay back the $40,000 to the Credit union.

“The trial court found that by assisting Khachikian in negotiating the insurance check, defendants ‘interfered with the (Credit union’s) right’ and therefore defendants were liable for conversion.”

I don’t know how you feel, but the result bugs me. From the description in the Court’s opinion, it sounds like Areg committed insurance fraud but got away with it and even got bankruptcy protection.

Yes, the Credit union got the shaft (no automotive pun intended) but then it should have made sure that it had been named on the insurance policy. Its failure to do this led to Allstate not including the Credit union on the check. Certainly, Edgar never should have gone to B of A with Areg but is the appropriate result that Edgar now owes the Credit union $40,000? What do you think?

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at cjk@kanowskylaw.com or online through his law firm at www.kanowskylaw.com. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

 

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