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Drugs, Diamonds, International Intrigue — You Won't Believe Two Hollywood Producers' Crazy Backstory 

Thursday, Jan 2 2014
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Berkesi joined the group on subsequent trips. Berkesi said in his own statement that Chase drove a Hummer, rented a luxurious beachside apartment in Cape Town, ate in expensive restaurants and acted like a millionaire.

A muscular 35-year-old, Berkesi was there to make sure that Chase was not robbed. He also alleged, however, that Chase occasionally asked him to rob associates in the diamond business, including one trip to Monte Carlo, when Chase told him to rob a yacht — certain it held 1.5 million euros. (Berkesi claimed he never committed any crimes for Chase but simply used him to get lavish vacations.)

Kele made a similar claim in his own statement to LAPD. Kele said that when Chase and Martirosian asked him to travel to Moscow to assassinate the businessman, he never had any intention of doing so.

click to enlarge Chase and Martirosian say they put up 80 percent of the money for Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg.
  • Chase and Martirosian say they put up 80 percent of the money for Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg.

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Kele told the police that he'd been informed that Kalandarishvili was blackmailing Martirosian and Chase's Russian employer. He claimed not to know the employer's identity.

Kele said he tried to get the money up front — $50,000 before the murder, another $50,000 after. However, Martirosian and Chase refused, saying he would be paid only after the job was done. Kele said he met Martirosian in Moscow, and Martirosian gave him two guns — a handgun and a machine gun — and showed him the luxury apartment building where Kalandarishvili lived.

In his letter to the Russian Embassy, Kele said he shot a lot of video of Kalandarishvili to prove that he was working.

"I had always lied to them why the 'killing' could not be done," Kele wrote. He also supplied the embassy with Kalandarishvili's license plate number — an apparent show of proof that he was involved.

After several trips to Moscow, Kele said that Martirosian grew frustrated and called off the killing. It was long afterward, Kele claimed, that he discovered that Kalandarishvili had, in fact, been killed.

In correspondence with LAPD, Moscow police seemed eager to follow up on the information. "Sure it will be a great international investigation," Mironov wrote. "We suppose that Kele was an executor of this contract murder."

Shortly thereafter, however, something very unusual happened. The U.S. Attorney's office dropped the armed robbery case against Kele and his associates. In their motion, prosecutors explained that they were doing so because the FBI wanted to protect their informant, Chase.

Prosecutors believed they were required to hand over a copy of Chase's hard drive to the defense attorneys. The FBI believed that would compromise Chase's personal information, and his safety.

What's strange about that explanation is that Kele and the other defendants were well aware of Chase's identity. Kele had known him for years, and he knew exactly whom he was talking to when the alleged conversations about an armed robbery occurred.

Nevertheless, Kele and his co-defendants were set free. Kele was sent back to Vienna, where he remains a free man. Berkesi was interviewed by a Hungarian news outlet. He alleged the FBI had tampered with evidence against him but acknowledged, "We are not angels."

Nothing ever came of the Moscow police and their "great international investigation."

It's unclear why. What is clear is that Kele was the key witness in the investigation. But with the threat of prosecution and lifetime incarceration no longer hanging over him, he no longer had any incentive to cooperate in an investigation of Chase — which might also ensnare himself.

Reached by email, Kele blamed the FBI for incarcerating him for more than a year on phony charges. But he did not blame Remington Chase.

Instead, he claimed that he was duped by a completely different person, who was only pretending to be Chase.

"I believe I was making an impetuous conclusion about being the same man," Kele wrote to the Weekly. "I am sorry, I cannot be of further help."

The FBI declined to comment on the case. Yvonne Garcia, the lead prosecutor, also declined to be interviewed.

"We're not going to comment on the internal deliberations that led us to decide that justice was best served by dismissing the charges in the case," said U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Stefan Martirosian's passion project is a film about the Armenian genocide — the Schindler's List of Armenia. He hired a writer to draft a script and pitched it to Martin Scorsese. Though Scorsese said he was busy with other things, Martirosian considers the conversation the highlight of his career in movies. "I always thought of him as a gangster. ... I couldn't believe how spiritual he was. We discussed tragic things in Armenian history. He was really well informed."

For obvious reasons, Chase and Martirosian would have preferred to stay out of the limelight. They agreed to this interview only because they believed they had no choice.

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