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Long IslandCrime

Sea Cliff man sentenced to prison for federal mail fraud, child porn charges

The house where John Derounian lived in Sea

The house where John Derounian lived in Sea Cliff before he was indicted on mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft related to the death of an elderly woman. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Sea Cliff man who had served 24 years in prison for stabbing a jeweler to death was sentenced Thursday to 121 months in prison for looting the estate of a housemate whose body he found and having an extensive collection of violent child pornography.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack came after a long, rambling and at times incoherent statement from the defendant, John Derounian. His statement, occasionally interrupted by his wheezing and gasping, included his claims that he had uncovered a Chinese espionage ring and detailed his recent history of seizures brought on by head injuries suffered in jail.

He also said he was sorry for his crimes and hoped to be released so he could provide for his wife and young daughter.

"I plead for mercy, not for myself but for my wife and daughter," Derounian said. "I need to be home with my family, because they need me and I need them, and I hope this happens today."

His wife, On-Anong Derounian, a Thai immigrant, listened along with their daughter, Dianica,  in the Central Islip courtroom. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Misorek later said in court that many of the children in the pornographic images were as young or younger than Dianica.
"Thank you, Mr. Derounian, for your thoughtful statement," Azrack said when the defendant finished.

Derounian, 54, pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud and possession of child pornography, which federal authorities found while executing a search warrant on the fraud case.

Misorek said there was no merit to the claims Derounian made that he had uncovered a spy ring, and said it didn't warrant an investigation. Nor should Derounian get any credit for offering this information, he said. 

Defense attorney Steven Metcalf II of Manhattan said his client remains in jeopardy for exposing the spy ring. He also said the judge should consider Derounian's seizures and head injuries while being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, which he said was an "experience so severe they would break a man's mind, no matter how strong he is."

Metcalf also showed the judge a large and detailed drawing that his client had done in jail of a dinosaur and a bottle of Absolut vodka in a jungle. 

"It's amazing," Azrack said. "Very talented. I was impressed by the drawings."

As for the case at hand, Misorek said Derounian should have learned to lead a law-abiding life after he served time for stabbing jeweler John Bellissimo 15 times and stealing $30,000 worth of jewels from his Sea Cliff store in 1983.

But after doing that time, Misorek said Derounian instead amassed more than 500 images of children — including infants and toddlers — engaged in sadomasochistic sexual activity. And in 2015 when he came across the dead body of Marilyn Mosberg-Shapiro, with whom he shared a house.  Misorek said he posed as her sole heir to claim her $1.423 million estate, and had her body cremated.

Misorek described Mosberg-Shapiro as Derounian's landlady, but Metcalf said both she and Derounian were living in a house owned by his mother.

Misorek said Derounian was investigated in connection with the death, but the cremation made it impossible to establish a cause of death.

Azrack sentenced Derounian to 51 months for the mail fraud, plus a fine of $10,000 and restitution of Mosberg-Shapiro's estate. For the child pornography charge, Azrack imposed a consecutive sentence of 70 months, plus a $5,200 payment to a crime victims fund. When he's released from prison, Azrack said Derounian will be barred from having contact with children under 18 unless a responsible adult is present and he gets advance permission from probation officers.

Azrack made no exception for Derounian's daughter.

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