By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A former Olympic boxer has been jailed after he and two co-accused allegedly dressed up as cops and broke into a sleeping family’s home to steal a cannabis crop in Noble Park.
Karen Saruhanyan, 41, pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to home invasion, common-law assault, impersonating a police officer and committing an indictable offence on bail.
His two co-accused are on bail and facing a contested committal hearing on 26 October.
At 4am on 6 April 2019, the trio arrived in a hired car, armed with crowbars and wearing police-issue uniform shirts, Police Association caps and backpacks with “police-style” insignias, sentencing judge Paul Lacava said.
A couple, their children and a relative were asleep inside at the time.
The intruders allegedly prised open the screen security-door with a crowbar while yelling: “We are the police. Open the door now.”
Despite efforts from occupants, the fake cops forced their way inside as a young child was crying in the arms of their mother, Judge Lacava said.
Holding a toy samurai sword, Saruhanyan stood over the occupants while his associates searched the house.
He felled a resistant male occupant with a punch to the stomach, the judge said – though noting Saruhanyan later argued it was a push.
Within eight minutes, police arrived as Saruhanyan’s associates started cutting cannabis plants on a bed sheet in the crop room.
The trio fled on foot, leaving behind the hire car, plants and uniforms.
Saruhanyan was arrested 100 metres away. The other pair were arrested the following month.
The home’s occupants were charged over cultivating the crop.
In sentencing on 20 October, Judge Lacava said the invasion must have been “confronting and frightening” to the victims.
The judge accepted that Saruhanyan wasn’t involved in the planning but “went along with it”.
However the operation relied on him as a third participant. It allowed the intruders to “force the issue” through “weight of numbers”.
At the time, Saruhanyan was on bail for burglary and theft charges in 2017. He was jailed for four months for those offences in May 2020.
Saruhanyan conceded he was ‘ice’-affected during the break-in.
As a long-term drug user with a long related criminal history, Saruhanyan’s rehab prospects were “at best, guarded”.
He’d arrived with Uzbekistan’s boxing squad to compete in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. There, he met his future wife, and later become a permanent Australian citizen.
He faces possible deportation as a result of the latest convictions, Judge Lacava noted.
Saruhanyan was jailed for up to three years, with a two-year non-parole period. It included 443 days in pre-sentence remand.
He would have been jailed for up to six years, if not for his early guilty plea and preparedness to give evidence against his two co-accused.