It looked like a simple shooting, but the Pets R Us killing exposed an organized-crime network running credit-card and recycling fraud. And one of its leaders, Sarkis Antonyan, a.k.a. Little Al Capone, had two bullets in his head.
If Antonyan left a legacy of crime, his murder also energized the authorities regulating the recycling industry. In October 1999, a month after his slaying, agents from the state Department of Conservation and the FBI raided the Los Angeles offices of Active Recycling, the L.A. County processing center favored by Antonyan and his cohorts as a place to send bad materials.
State officials followed up the raid by filing a formal accusation against Active last April alleging “dishonesty, incompetence, negligence or fraud.” In addition, the state Department of Conservation initiated audits of close to a dozen of the recycling centers that relied on Active to process their bottles and cans. Four centers opted to drop out of the business; six more were decertified by the state.
Hal Wright, an attorney representing Active owner Errol Segal, noted that the state previously filed accusations against Segal in 1988 and 1992, and said that in both cases Segal won on appeal. In the current cases, Wright said of his client, “He believes he is not guilty.” Wright declined to discuss the cases in detail. “We believe that our position is strong, but we’d rather keep it low-key,” Wright said.
Since the raid on Active, the Department of Conservation has stepped up its enforcement efforts with beefed-up staff and random, unannounced inspections of recycler loads and shipping reports. Massey, of the Independent Recyclers, said he‘s glad to see the enforcement division in action, but termed the episode with Active “a slap in the face for the whole industry. In the eyes of the enforcement agency, we are all guilty. We are nothing but a bunch of crooks.”
Sarkis Antonyan’s survivors think he got a bad rap as well. “He was a really good person,” said one family member. “He lived to serve people. And he lived to protect his family.”
In September, a memorial service drew more than 200 people to the Armenian Community Center in Glendale. “You wouldn‘t believe how many people came up to talk to me,” said one of the Antonyan clan. “My family is very close to the community.”
Too close, in Antonyan’s case, to at least one member of that community. “You have a big Mafia,” said Margarit Tumanyan, Sarkis‘ mother. Tumanyan recounted her frustrations with the Burbank police, and lamented the course of her life in the new world of immigrant Los Angeles. “My husband had a heart attack. My son is dead. Everyone knows, but nobody can touch it.”