Posted by Karmel Melamed
Earlier today Brentwood Iranian Jewish banker and real estate investor Ezri Namvar was arrainged in U.S. District court in downtown L.A. after being indicted last week by a federal grand jury on five counts of fraud in failing to return $23 million in funds client’s of his Namco Financial Exchange Corp. (NFE) had given him for safekeeping before it was reinvested in real estate.
The indictment filed in U.S. District Court also includes five counts of fraud brought against NFE’s controller 62-year-old Hamid Tabatabai, alleging that both he and Namvar carried out a scheme from March 2008 to August 2008 that defraud five of NFE’s clients of their 1031 funds. According to U.S. federal tax codes, 1031 funds are profits real estate investors have earned on the sale of property where capital gains taxes will be deferred during a set time frame provided the funds are given to a qualified third party and then used to purchase a replacement property.
Namvar’s indictment alleges that he only returned $4 million of the $27 million NFE’s client’s had given his company in their 1031 funds for safekeeping and these funds were used by Namvar without their authorization for various purposes unrelated to the clients. The indictment also alleges that Namvar with the help of Tabatabai used NFE’s clients’ funds to pay off creditors and investors of Namvar’s investment company, Namco Capital Group Inc. or Namvar’s own personal creditors.
Tabatabai surrendered to the F.B.I. and was arraigned on September 23rd at downtown L.A.’s U.S. District Court. Namvar surrendered to the F.B.I. before his arraignment today in the same court. Both men face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each count of fraud if convicted.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in downtown L.A. and Namvar’s attorney did not return calls for comment on the case. Yet A. David Youssefyeh, a Century City Iranian Jewish attorney representing some of Namvar’s Iranian Jewish creditors in other civil cases against Namvar, said his clients and other creditors who lost their life savings in Namvar’s other alleged ponzi schemes have expressed satisfaction with the charges brought against Namvar.
“For two years Mr. Namvar has been lounging around in his mansion in Brentwood while they (creditors) have had to pickup what is left of their finances to try to squeeze out a living—for quite a few that has meant being evicted from their home,” said Youssefyeh. “Although the indictment can’t put their lives back together, at least his victims know that Mr. Namvar will not be able to walk away without any consequence to him either”.
Namvar was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in December 2008 and accused by investors of creating a Ponzi scheme that lost as much as $500 million that had been loaned to him — most of it by Los Angeles’ Iranian Jews. The petition followed 17 lawsuits filed against Namvar, Namco, entities owned by Namvar and other Namvar family members alleging breach of contract and contractual fraud in a case that attorneys estimate involves 300 to 400 creditors, the majority of whom are Iranian Jews.
The creditors include investors in Namco Capital Group, those who lent money to Namco and received a personal guarantee from Namvar, lenders to Namco who received a lien on property owed by Namvar or one his entities and those who gave profits from their real estate transactions (1031 funds) to Namvar, according to the lawsuits.
A report released earlier this year by the trustees in Namvar’s bankruptcy case showed that Namco owes more than $500 million to more than 170 secured and unsecured creditors. The report also states that Namco is owed more than $600 million from loans it made to 16 members of Namvar’s family, various limited liability corporations owned by Namvar and to more than 60 individuals and entities. In addition, the report indicates that Namvar gave himself a loan of more than $32 million, and he also gave $50 million to each of his four children.
Many of Namvar’s Iranian Jewish creditors are low- to middle-income couples, individuals or retired seniors who invested their small savings with Namvar and his company, hoping to receive higher interest rates than what most banks were offering at the time. Their investments ranged anywhere from $10,000 to $300,000, and most said they had lost all hope of regaining their funds.
Separately, another investment scandal hit the Iranian Jewish community in early January of this year, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against John Farahi, 52, a popular Iranian Jewish radio talk show host who also served as an investment adviser and stockbroker for local Iranian Jews. The suit alleges that Farahi and his Beverly Hills firm, NewPoint Financial Services Inc., defrauded Iranian American investors of millions of dollars and that Farahi, his company, his wife, Gissou Rastegar Farahi, and the firm’s controller, Elaheh Amouei, misled investors by telling them their funds were being invested in unsecured corporate bonds, FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, government bonds, and corporate bonds issued by companies backed by funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The complaint against Farahi alleges that investors’ money was transferred into personal accounts controlled by Farahi and his wife to build their mansion in Beverly Hills, as well as into risky stock market options that resulted in more than $18 million in losses for investors.
A third alleged Ponzi scheme that rocked the local Iranian Jewish community came to light this year when lawsuits were brought against Joseph Boodaie, also a Beverly Hills Iranian Jewish businessman who lent money and offered community members higher rates of return on their savings than most banks. Last year, nearly a dozen different lawsuits were filed by various L.A.-area Iranian Jews and other businesses alleging that Boodaie had defrauded them of a combined total of close to $100 million, according to one local attorney.
Amidst mounting pressure from local Iranian Jews and the board of the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, Namvar quit his position of the synagogue’s board this past April. Nessah’s board and the West Hollywood based Iranian American Jewish Federation did not return calls for comment on Namvar’s indictment.
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September 22, 2010 | 11:19 pm
Posted by Karmel Melamed
Last night I was surprised to find more than a 100 people from very different groups—hardcore fans of heavy metal music and L.A. area Iranian Americans coming together to rock hard and very vocally protest the arrival of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the U.N. this week. More importantly both groups voiced opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the regime’s horrid human rights abuses against women, religious minorities, homosexuals, journalists and yes even heavy metal music fans in Iran! The event was organized by “Marse Por Gohar” an L.A. based Iranian pro-democracy political opposition party to the current regime in Iran and hosted by widely popular and sultry Heavy Metal personality/producer “Metal Sanaz”— who is coincidentally an Iranian American as well.
Was the music deafeningly loud? Yes. Were the fans pumped up and engaged in both the music and its political message against Iran’s government? Yes. Were expletives used by Metal Sanaz and the musical groups about the Iranian regime’s officials? Hell yes! The mistreatment of Heavy metal music fans in Iran by the Iranian government and other human rights abuses by the Iranian regime were a common theme for the musical event. I had a chance to chat with Metal Sanaz before the event and she shed light on why “metal music” is such a threat to the Iranian regime. “Metal music is a very powerful form of music that is very empowering to those who listen to it,” she said. “The Iranian government hates it because it’s the loudest and scariest music for them and it is empowering young people in Iran to stand up against them”. The following is a brief video interview I had with Metal Sanaz about the plight of metal music fans in Iran and the political statement against Iran’s government the concert was making about the regime…
Interestingly the government run media outlets in Iran have in the past reported on Metal Sanaz in the past and labelled her a devil worshipper! When asked about the names she’s been given by the Iranian regime, she angrily retorts; “If I’m a devil worshipper, at least my record and I haven’t murdered innocent people like you in the Iranian government have!” Photographs of the Iranian government leaders were ripped up in protest during last night’s concert and banners calling for freedom in Iran were held up high by those in attendance. Here are some videos I captured of Metal Sanaz talking on stage about her feelings towards Iran’s government….
Marse Por Gohar’s founder and head, Roozbeh Farahanipour expressed his group’s objectives in organizing this musical political protest against Iran’s government in this video interview with me….
If heavy metal music scares officials of the Iranian regime, then this type of music should be blasted through out the country via satellite and the internet to send a clear message across to the ayatollahs that their abuse of human beings and quest for nuclear weapons are unacceptable to the rest of the free world. Perhaps just as “rock n’ roll” was influenctial to shake communism to its core during the Cold War and gave hope to those behind the “iron curtain”…then maybe metal music have the same effect in Iran for the millions of young Iranians seeking freedom. Metal Sanaz said she wants to bring 50 of the best known Heavy Metal bands to play a concert in Iran once the current regime collapses… we’ll have to see if that dream will be a reality one of these days.
To all the hardcore metal fans and all those who continue to protest Iran’s nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses of the current Iranian regime, I say onto you all, only two words…”ROCK ON!” Here are just a few snapshots I captured from last night’s concert…