Kirk Vartanian avoids jail time despite grand theft conviction
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A notorious Fresno businessman is trying to leave town after being sentenced for grand theft. Kirk Vartanian is not going to jail, but he'll be on probation for five years.
In all, prosecutors say Vartanian cheated 15 people. The victims haven't gotten any money back yet, and the sentencing didn't make refunds any more likely.
Vartanian had very little to say as he accepted his punishment for stealing from more than a dozen of the customers at his failed luxury auto dealership.
The one-time Granite Park entrepreneur found himself in handcuffs two years ago -- not long after an ABC30 employee noticed something wrong with his deal with Vartanian.
"When I found out that he didn't send my money in to the insurance company -- I bought a service policy -- and that's when I called the Highway Patrol," said Tom Moscatelli.
Prosecutors charged Vartanian with 15 counts of grand theft for all the deals that never happened -- like one with former Fresno State women's basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein. Action News uncovered court documents showing she paid Vartanian more than $200,000 for a Bentley he never gave her.
In the end, Vartanian pleaded guilty to one of the charges and received a sentence of five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. But still to be settled is how much money he should have to pay back to the victims. His defense attorney is fighting prosecutors who say Vartanian owes almost $800,000.
"That's the allegation," said defense attorney Daniel Bacon. "We still haven't come to a figure that I think all parties agree on."
At least one of Vartanian's victims thinks he'll never get paid back. And, he doesn't believe the punishment fit the crime.
"To think he actually fraudulently took this much money from people and just got probation," said Moscatelli. "It's incredulous really. He should've spent some time in jail."
Whatever the restitution amount, Vartanian has a lot of debt to settle. He also had judgments against him from two Las Vegas casinos totaling almost $400,000.
Kirk Vartanian is also asking probation to allow him to do his community service in Las Vegas.
court, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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