Fresno artist-turned-arms dealer arrested for illegal arms sales

Fresno native Ara Dolarian is alleged to have sold $8.5 million in arms to Nigeria without approval from the U.S. State Department

Ara Dolarian, an artist-turned-international arms dealer was arrested in Fresno last week following the filing of a complaint by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

The complaint alleged Dolarian illegally brokered a sale of military arms and munitions, laundered money, and engaged in conspiracy.


Dolarian, once a local artist, opened an arms dealing firm licensed by the U.S. State and Justice departments called “Dolarian Capital” based in Fresno, Washington, D.C., and Sophia, Bulgaria.

He is alleged to have sold $8.5 million worth of arms to Nigeria in 2014 without receiving approval for the deal from the State Department.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Dolarian received roughly $8.3 million from Nigeria and its arms broker through an alleged furniture company based in Hong Kong and “routed through numerous shell accounts held by Dolarian and others.”

Dolarian eventually used the funds to pay off personal tax debts and purchase a BMW SUV, the Justice Department said.

In 2015, the Justice Department seized the remaining $6 million from the Nigerian sale he held in bank accounts.

The Fresnan was profiled by BuzzFeed’s News Divsion in 2014 shortly after the arms sale went public.

Prior to his dabbling in arm sales, the BuzzFeed profile discusses, Dolarian was a financier in another commodity business: pigs.

During his time in the pig trading business, he operated at least two firms – Dolarian Business Group and Central Valley Meat Products.

The later was the subject of a roughly $300,000 lawsuit involving an investment in the firm from Fresno dentist, Dr. Dennis Shamlian, and his mother, alleging Dolarian defrauded them for their investment.

Dolarian denied the fraud, arguing that it was an honest-yet-failed investment.

But a 2002 judgment rendered by then-Fresno County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kane, held for the Shamlians and that Dolarian engaged in “fraud and deceit upon his investors and creditors.”

Read the Dolarian criminal complaint

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