NAM­VAR’S TROU­BLES ELICIT CHEERS

In­vestors who lost mil­lions wel­come a grand jury in­dict­ment of real es­tate mogul.

Los Angeles Times - - Business - Stu­art Pfeifer and Robert Fa­turechi

This week’s in­dict­ment of Los An­ge­les real es­tate mogul Ezri Nam­var on crim­i­nal fraud charges was wel­come news to lo­cal in­vestors who say the Ira­nian im­mi­grant preyed on their shared eth­nic ties and bilked them out of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

Nam­var has agreed to sur­ren­der to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties Mon­day to face charges that he stole $23 mil­lion from clients of his com­pany, Namco Fi­nan­cial Ex­change Corp., which safe­guarded pro­ceeds from com­mer­cial real es­tate trans­ac­tions, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Los An­ge­les.

A fed­eral grand jury in­dicted Nam­var on Tues­day.

The in­dict­ment al­leged that Nam­var mis­ap­pro­pri­ated the money in 2008, us­ing it to pay in­vestors and cred­i­tors from a real es­tate in­vest­ment com­pany he ran, in­stead of hold­ing it in es­crow as promised. The charges carry a com­bined max­i­mum sen­tence of 100 years in prison.

Also charged in the in­dict­ment was Hamid Ta­batabai, who served as con­troller and vice pres­i­dent of Namco Fi­nan­cial.

“I am happy be­cause he de­serves it,” said Paul Laska, who lost more than $700,000 he had given to Namco Fi­nan­cial for safe­keep­ing. “I’ve gone through hell. I lost my home in fore­clo­sure be­cause of this. It’s re­ally af­fected me tremen­dously — fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally.”

Laska was one of the in­vestors who forced Nam­var’s com­pa­nies into in­vol­un­tary bank­ruptcy, ask­ing a Bank­ruptcy Court to man­age his re­main­ing as­sets so he would not squan­der them. That request was granted.

Nam­var’s at­tor­ney, Marc Har­ris, said his client would fight the charges and be vindi­cated.

In ad­di­tion to Namco Fi­nan­cial, Nam­var ran Namco Cap­i­tal Group Inc., which raised hun­dreds of mil­lions

of dol­lars from pri­vate in­vestors and used it to buy com­mer­cial real es­tate. Most of that money came from mem­bers of the Ira­nian Jewish com­mu­nity in Los An­ge­les.

Nam­var, a 59-year-old Ira­nian im­mi­grant, was one of the biggest suc­cess sto­ries of the real es­tate boom be­fore the mar­ket crashed in 2008, amass­ing high-pro­file hold­ings that in­cluded the Mar­riott ho­tel in down­town Los An­ge­les and the Cal Neva re­sort at Lake Ta­hoe, to name a few.

Nam­var’s good for­tune ran out in 2008, when an­gry in­vestors ac­cused him of squan­der­ing their money and at­tempt­ing to hide dev­as­tat­ing losses. Cred­i­tors of Namco Cap­i­tal Group placed claims of nearly $525 mil­lion in Bank­ruptcy Court.

Un­til word of the in­dict­ment broke Wed­nes­day, many in­vestors feared that Nam­var would never be pros­e­cuted, said David Yousse­fyeh, an at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents 22 clients who lost “tens of mil­lions” of dol­lars they had in­vested with Nam­var.

“The fact that some author­ity brought charges against him means a lot to the vic­tims. They suf­fered for two years while he’s been sit­ting in his man­sion in Brent­wood,” Yousse­fyeh said. “It makes them be­lieve in the Amer­i­can jus­tice sys­tem, makes them un­der­stand that it works, and that’s huge.”

Al­le­ga­tions in the in­dict­ment re­lated only to Namco Fi­nan­cial, which helped in­vestors avoid taxes by hold­ing their com­mer­cial real es­tate prof­its in es­crow un­til they could be rein­vested. Nam­var promised to safe­guard the money but in­stead dipped into it through­out 2008 to help run his strug­gling busi­nesses, the in­dict­ment al­leged.

Arash Hakhamian, who said he in­vested about $40,000 with Nam­var, wel­comed news of the real es­tate mag­nate’s in­dict­ment.

“I’m glad they’re at least do­ing some­thing,” he said. “I think any fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion or probe into these al­le­ga­tions is great news. If they have noth­ing to hide and they’ve done noth­ing wrong I take no plea­sure in see­ing him in jail. I want to see fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion by peo­ple who have equal re­sources as they do, some­one who can fully in­ves­ti­gate the depth of what has tran­spired.” stu­art.pfeifer@latimes.com robert.fa­turechi@latimes.com

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