Russian emigre held on stalker charge

By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published January 9, 2008

TAMPA - A Russian immigrant with local ties stalked and harassed an elderly couple and beat them with a hammer in exchange for money, according to a federal complaint.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Edmon Vardanyan, 23, of 4202 Bismarck Palm Drive, Tampa, on a charge of interstate stalking with the intent to kill, injure, harass or intimidate. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo ordered that he remain in custody.

"Thank you, your honor," Vardanyan said during his first appearance in court.

"You're welcome," replied the judge.

Grigori and Galina Komissarchuk, picked Vardanyan's mug out of a lineup after reporting attacks that happened to them between September 2006 and April 2007, an FBI report says.

Eric Kuske, Vardanyan's attorney, denied the allegations and said Vardanyan has never met the Komissarchuks and wasn't hired to harm them or kill them for $10,000 each, as the FBI report alleged.

"He's not involved," Kuske said. He doesn't know who hired someone to kill these people."

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office investigated one of the early complaints from the Komissarchuks. Sheriff's Lt. Chuck Lesaltato said the person who allegedly initiated the hit on the couple was their son-in-law, a man he said was referred to as "the Boss." Lesaltato declined to release the name, saying the FBI had taken over the investigation.

Lesaltato said the son-in-law allegedly contacted a middle man who ordered Vardanyan to harass the Komissarchuks. The dispute may have been over money, he said.

Federal court records say Vardanyan told investigators that the Komissarchuks owed money and were refusing to pay.

Here's an FBI account of the attacks:

On Sept. 25, 2006, someone posing as a delivery man tried to strike Grigori Komissarchuk, 69, after he answered the door at his Brooklyn home. Komissarchuk yelled for a neighbor, and the man ran away.

Komissarchukpicked out Vardanyan's picture from a police photo lineup as the man at his door.

On Sept. 26, 2006, Komissarchuk was attacked outside a Brooklyn Home Depot. Someone hit him in the back of his head and knocked him unconscious. He suffered a ruptured pancreas and facial fractures. His attacker was never identified.

On Dec. 9, 2006, Grigori and Galina Komissarchuk, 64, returned to their Sarasota home from dinner when a man armed with a hammer attacked them in their garage.

Galina Komissarchukpicked Vardanyan's picture from a photo lineup as the man who attacked them.

She was attacked again on April 30, 2007, as she walked to her home in Brooklyn. A man jumped out of a van and hit her with a blunt object. Her son canvassed the neighborhood for the van and found it, with Sarasota plates, at a Brooklyn liquor store.

The son, Vadim Komissarchuk, called police, who arrested Vardanyan but released him.

Because of the attacks, Galina Komissarchuk has to take epilepsy medicine, court records said. Vardanyan was charged in July 2007 with one count of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated battery on a person older than 65.

The FBI reports says Vardanyan admitted in a 17-page letter to a Sarasota sheriff's detective that he was hired to harm the Komissarchuks. He was offered $2,000 for harassing them, the complaint said.

State records show that Vardanyan's arrest record in Florida dates back to late 2005.

He has previous arrests by the Orlando Police Department on racketeering and fraud charges; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrests for fraud, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery with great bodily harm, which was later transferred to the Sarasota Sheriff's Office.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or 813 226-3433.