How a Brother and Sister Took L.A.'s Russian Immigrant Community on a Wild Ride 

Thursday, Oct 10 2013
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Their teamwork and aggression was on display in 2006, when Gennady Dolzhenko tangled with Valley Temps after he scored poorly on tests for a position as a factory assembler. Valley Temps closed his file after he sent "rude, condescending and threatening" communications, according to court documents.

Gennady then sued Valley Temps for "national origin discrimination." As the case heated up, Zina Dolzhenko suddenly appeared at the downtown offices of Squire Sanders, one of the world's largest law firms. Thomas T. Liu, an attorney handling the Valley Temps case, says Zina snuck past building security, made it to the firm's 31st-floor offices, and demanded to see him. "She refused to leave and created a ruckus," Liu says. Security escorted Zina out.

Attorney Martin Trupiano, who later represented the temp agency, tells the Weekly, "They never argue substantive issues — it's just always procedural or just ad hominem attacks. They know some companies will pay a nuisance amount to make them go away."

click to flip through (7) The only known images of Zina and Gennady Dolzhenko
  • The only known images of Zina and Gennady Dolzhenko

He's still fighting to collect attorney fees awarded by Judge Richard Adler in Van Nuys.

Five years after that case, in June 2011, Gennady sued Studio Lodge Hotel on Vanowen Street in North Hollywood, where he lived during the summer of 2010. For that case, he transposed an "l" and an "h" to come up with the name "Dolhzenko." His 88-page complaint accused the hotel proprietors of wrongful eviction and not refunding a key deposit, among other things.

Stephen Flaherty, who represented Studio Lodge, tells the Weekly: "He was told at the outset that it's not an apartment, he had to move out at the end of 28 days. When it came time to leave, he refused."

Dolzhenko was forcibly evicted but returned the next day and reclaimed the same room, which he vandalized.

Flaherty became the target of the siblings' wrath. "Defendant's 75-year-old attorney Flaherty demonstrates his despicable nature," reads one motion challenging Studio Lodge's account. Flaherty "does not remember what he had for breakfast a couple of hours ago."

No attorney has ever managed to depose the evasive Dolzhenko under oath, but Flaherty thought he might be the first. Cornered by a legal order, Gennady reported to a deposition room but "immediately started a fight with the translator," Flaherty says. Then, claiming that the stenographer's recording device violated his rights, Gennady angrily stormed out, Flaherty says.

Vagan Arutyunyan, an Armenian who owns Stone Electronics, a small repair shop sitting on a busy corner of Beverly Boulevard on the edge of the Fairfax District, knew none of this when he met Gennady in 2010. Zina had called Arutyunyan's shop, saying her brother was a skilled electronics repairman in need of a job.

Arutyunyan wasn't hiring but gave Gennady, a fellow immigrant, a chance. After Gennady broke several expensive pieces of equipment, the repair shop owner gave him $300 and sent him on his way.

A week later, Arutyunyan returned from vacation to find Gennady outside his shop, and they argued. "He told me, 'You'll see what I can do to you,' " Arutyunyan tells the Weekly.

Gennady filed a $40,000 lawsuit against him, which Arutyunyan's attorney, Rosie Barmakszian, got dismissed — but under harrowing conditions.

During court appearances, Barmakszian tells the Weekly, she asked security officers for an escort to her car because Zina attempted to stage physical confrontations with her. Among other things, Zina would stand behind the courtroom doors, then claim she was struck when the lawyer went through, Barmakszian says.

Arutyunyan, who fought the siblings for more than a year, says he thinks about Zina and Gennady every time he lights up.

"I had finally quit smoking. This guy made me start again," he says, a pack of American Spirits in hand. "Shouldn't this be illegal?"

Some Russian-speaking business owners who fled the injustices of Eastern Europe agree they are easy targets — they struggle with English, don't understand their legal protections and sometimes ignore mail they don't understand.

"They try to screw us because we don't take these things seriously. Our mentality is different," Rekechenetsky, of Stolichnaya Bakery, says of himself and his peers.

In exploiting this attitude, Zina and Gennady follow a pattern: repeated attempts to re-litigate already rendered decisions, motions intended to delay proceedings and multiple, meritless lawsuits — elements of what California calls a "vexatious litigant." A person can be designated a vexatious litigant, though this is rare, to stop malicious lawsuits and spare innocent, often little-guy, victims.

James Boyajian argued before Judge Dunn last year, on his father's behalf, that those were the hallmarks of Gennady Dol­zhenko/Dolshenko/Dolhzenko's many cases.

In documents obtained by the Weekly, Gennady fought back by calling James Boyajian a "despicable, lying and indecent specimen" and a "loathsome and nasty person." Zina accused him of striking her with a stack of papers. The siblings threatened to report Boyajian to the Bar Association, the DA and even the police.

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