Scan­dal jolts Ira­nian Jews in L.A.

One al­leged vic­tim of a money scam is left con­flicted af­ter try­ing to re­coup his funds.

Los Angeles Times - - Late Extra - Robert Fa­turechi and Stu­art Pfeifer

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-

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