By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
The Botach family of Los Angeles is among the more unusual of the very rich. Yoav Botach is a wealthy landlord. He founded, and his son now owns, an arms dealership in an unsettling locale for one: South Central. And his grandson was convicted of conspiracy for peddling to the U.S. Army decomposing ammunition — so old that it was traced to the factories of Mao Tse-tung — as part of a $300 million contract to arm the Afghan government.
But what is also startling in the weird saga of this prominent L.A. family is the silence of Congressman Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills, who led a congressional investigation into the ammo fraud and vowed to get to the bottom of it.
As Waxman said, his inquiry in 2008 aimed to answer a fundamental question: How did Botach's inexperienced 21-year-old grandson Efraim Diveroli "get a sensitive, $300 million contract to supply ammunition to Afghan forces?"
Two years later, Waxman refuses to speak about it with L.A. Weekly. But with an ugly palimony suit simmering in L.A. between family patriarch Botach and his common-law wife, Judith Boteach, she's now talking. And she points to a contract that may link the South Central arms firm run by Botach's son, Bar-Kochba Botach, to the grandson's disgraced firm, AEY Inc., in Miami Beach.
Yoav and Bar-Kochba Botach refused to comment on Boteach's allegations when contacted by the Weekly. (Boteach explains to the Weekly that she spells her last name differently because Botach changed his name for simplicity.)
According to Boteach, Diveroli, her step-grandson, who is awaiting sentencing from Judge Joan A. Lenard in U.S. District Court in Miami after hawking the Mao-era material, spent summers as a teen doing odd jobs at Botach Tactical, the firm in South Central. She says a 2004 federal contract granted to Botach Tactical implies another connection: On the contract, the Botach firm lists its address as young Diveroli's AEY address — in Miami Beach.
Botach Tactical sells arms to U.S. police and military forces, as its Web site advertises. Last year, among other revenue, it took in just less than $6 million in federal defense contracts, according to USASpending.gov.
A profile of the company discovered by blogger Lindsay Beyerstein and cited on Fedvendor.com — a Web site for companies interested in contracting with the government — lists Botach Tactical's physical address as 3423 West 43rd Place in South Central L.A. But the profile identified its mailing address as 925 41st Street, Suite 306, Miami Beach — again, the mailing address for Diveroli's fraud-mired AEY Inc.
Waxman's silence on Diveroli's fleecing of the Army comes as the palimony case between Boteach and Botach plays out, from Los Angeles to Israel.
In March 2006, the State of Israel accused Botach's brother and business partner in L.A., Shlomo Botach, of "using professional money launderers" to transfer $860,000 from the U.S. through Swiss and Uruguayan banks to an account in Israel, code-named "Ezra 26." The court case covered transfers totaling $331,000.
In court documents translated from Hebrew for the Weekly, Shlomo stated he was moving the money to Israel so that Judith Boteach couldn't access it during the palimony dispute.
But the State of Israel alleged that the money was wired in small batches so that it could be slipped past authorities.
Though the documents show that Shlomo claimed he was acting on Botach's behalf, Botach is not accused of any wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, the documents shed light on how the broader business is conducted: "Yoav is the one that handles the financial end of the partnership," Shlomo states in the documents, insisting he would "not question the head of the family [Yoav] with regards to the financial decisions he makes."
It may be that L.A. politicians worry about their relationships with wealthy arms merchants and landowners. In 2006, the L.A. Daily News reported that Botach co-owns the South Central arms firm — and 144 commercial properties across L.A.
"Some are restaurants, garages, buildings where they manufacture clothes," Boteach says. "A lot of them are small businesses, and some are apartment buildings."
She says that Botach lives in Waxman's 30th Congressional District, and that her estranged husband wields influence with politicians. "[Yoav] supports a lot of the City Council members and the governor. There were special lunches, dinners and fund-raisers."
The connections could be seen last year, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti attended the Beverly Hills launch of the star-studded charity Turn Friday Night Into Family Night, founded by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the former spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson.
Shmuley is Botach's son, Judith Boteach's stepson, and Diveroli's uncle. A video of Villaraigosa touting Turn Friday Night Into Family Night is featured on its Web site.
Judith Boteach tells the Weekly that life with Botach was a "total nightmare," even as he hosted world leaders, including former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
After Botach's 2002 split from Boteach, a former Hollywood makeup artist, she claimed she was unaware they had never been legally married. Botach's lawyers insisted Boteach knew they were not married.
In August 2009, L.A. Superior Court Judge Warren Ettinger upheld her claims of assault, battery, emotional distress and unpaid work, and awarded her $250,000 plus legal costs, but rejected her palimony claim.