The company which manages the Arboretum apartment complex on Colorado Avenue must make changes to how it treats its low-income tenants or face action by the City Attorney's Office. (photo by Byron Kennerly)

COLORADO AVE — It’s a hot, sunny day in Santa Monica and you’re standing on your balcony. Your next door neighbor, a young-looking blonde, is sunbathing on her balcony. She’s attractive and she’s wearing a revealing, brightly colored bikini. She notices you and starts up a conversation.

For many college-age males, this would be a dream come true. But for the residents of The Plaza At The Arboretum at 2200 Colorado Ave., it turns out there’s more than meets the eye.

Federal prosecutors say the apartment complex was home to prostitutes.

Mher “Mike” Hakopyan, 38; his current wife, Natalya Muravyeva, 31; and his ex-wife, Alla Kassianova, 43, are now facing charges for running an international prostitution ring. Hakopyan and Muravyeva were arrested Monday by special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and detectives from the Santa Monica Police Department. Kassianova is still being tracked down.

The charges against Hakopyan, Muravyeva and Kassianova are the culmination of a joint 10-month probe by federal agents and SMPD detectives. The case is currently being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

According to the case affidavit, the defendants were operating a large-scale prostitution ring that brought women, primarily from Eastern Europe, to work in Southern California. The affidavit lists units 635 and 705 at The Plaza as “identified brothels,” stating that Hakopyan was listed as an emergency point of contact for both units. The affidavit also identifies 11 females who are tied to Hakopyan, five of whom listed their destination addresses as 2200 Colorado Ave. when attempting to enter the U.S.

SMPD Detective Steven Pollnow received many complaints from residents and managers from The Plaza, citing loud noises indicative of sexual acts, the affidavit said.

The management at The Plaza said they could not release a statement at this time.

Max Sjostrand, a student at Santa Monica College, has been living at The Plaza for 2 1/2 years, and said he was not aware of any prostitution activity. As a student, he and his current roommates are “straight in and out” and said they “haven’t really noticed any suspicious activity.”

The only peculiarity the students pointed out was a lady who lived next door to them last semester. An ex-roommate of Sjostrand’s, who would frequently relax on the balcony, talked about an intriguing lady living next door.

“He said she was always standing on the balcony — kind of flirting and stuff like that,” Sjostrand said. “She would be pretty wide open — with bikinis and very showy clothes.”

Detective Pollnow observed a female partially nude on the balcony of unit 705 while surveying The Plaza, the affidavit said. He then noted multiple males entering the unit for short amounts of time.

Sjostrand also said he had a couple encounters with the woman in the elevator.

“She had an accent — clearly — like Ukraine or something,” he said. “I remember her being kind of blonde. She would always wear high boots, like ‘these boots are made for walking’ — yeah, those type. She was not afraid with her outgoing sexuality, like dressed a little bit more provocative. But I haven’t seen her in awhile.”

Morris Lucia, the current resident of unit 705 since Dec. 1, 2011, said he wasn’t aware his room had been previously pinned as an identified brothel.

“If they think there’s been prostitution going on here since December, I haven’t made anything from it,” he said with a laugh.

Lucia, however, has noted a few oddities, such as pieces of mail and late night visitors.

“Every week there’s a lot of junk mail from banks and stuff,” Lucia said. “I can’t remember because the names — one of them is Japanese, and I couldn’t spell it for you, and the other one is something like Central European.”

Not too long ago, somebody came to his door at around 2 or 3 a.m., he said.

“They didn’t knock; they rang the bell,” Lucia said. “I didn’t answer, but I did come look through the peephole. Nobody was there.”

Sjostrand wasn’t surprised to hear the news. He said the security at The Plaza, in previous years, has been less than satisfactory.

He added: “Now we’re locking the door.”


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