Scandal jolts Iranian Jews in L.A.
One alleged victim of a money scam is left conflicted after trying to recoup his funds.
Arash Hakhamian was just a child in 1989 when his family came to the United States. But it wasn’t long before he was looking for a place to park tuition money he’d earned to put himself through dental school.
Like many Iranian Jews who immigrated to the Los Angeles area, he skipped the big American investment firms, instead turning to a name he knew: Namvar.
The Namvar family’s patriarch, Eilel, had been a deeply respected money lender in Iran. He had resumed work in L.A. with the help of his children. The standout among them was Ezri, a quick-thinking businessman who eventually amassed billions in commercial real estate holdings.
Over the years, Hakhamian and his family directed their savings to Ezri Namvar. When times were good, they enjoyed returns hard to find elsewhere.
Then the economy hit the skids. Many investors who tried to access their money found they couldn’t get it from Namvar, panicking many of the city’s Iranian Jews.
Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Ezri Namvar on criminal fraud charges, alleging that in 2008 he misappropriated millions in real estate proceeds he’d promised to shelter for clients. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles.
Namvar, through his attorney, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to be vindicated in court.
Authorities allege that Namvar used the money to help prop up his own troubled commercial property business, which had attracted hundreds of investors including Hakhamian. Near the end of 2008, angry clients forced Namvar into an involuntary bankruptcy, alleging that he owed them more than $525 million.
Namvar’s earlier success was anchored by strong ties to the city’s relatively affluent community of Iranian Jews. Many of those same families now feel betrayed by one of their own. Although the list of clients allegedly bilked runs deep with millionaires, many like Hakha-