Ezri Namvar Is the New Bernie Madoff and the Most Reviled Man in Town | News | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Ezri Namvar Is the New Bernie Madoff and the Most Reviled Man in Town 

(And he speaks for the first time)

Thursday, Jul 21 2011

Page 4 of 7

"The religious authorities have an obligation to protect those who cannot defend themselves," he says. "Their silence speaks volumes."

Assil had hoped to be semiretired by now, but without the $6 million he lost to Namvar, he must keep working. Still, he acknowledges that he remains comfortable.

He is still following the money with grim determination. He believes "suitcases full of cash" went to Israel. Some may be in Turkey.

click to flip through (5) Ezri Namvar under house arrest at his Brentwood home
  • Ezri Namvar under house arrest at his Brentwood home

"He misjudged me," Assil says. "He miscalculated my abilities and my perseverance. This is not over yet. This is just the beginning."

When Michael Eshmoili spoke up in support of Namvar at the Marriott hotel, he had never met the man.

Eshmoili owns a fabric wholesaling business. It's downtown, and it used to be across the street from a branch of Security Pacific Bank, which Namvar owned, and which has since been seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Eshmoili kept a checking account there, and when he would go in to make deposits he would talk to a bank employee who urged him to invest his savings with Namvar. He would earn a high rate of return — 7.25 percent.

Eshmoili was told his money would be safe.

"He has hotels," he remembers being told. "They made it sound like an empire."

Eventually, he agreed to transfer his entire life savings — just over $1 million — to Namvar.

Eshmoili, who is 55, has suffered more than his share of tragedy. Eight years ago, his wife died of cancer. She was 34. He was left to raise their 6-year-old daughter on his own.

He was engaged to be remarried when he transferred his savings to Namvar. Shortly after, he made an offer on a three-bedroom house in Brentwood, where he planned to move with his fiancée. To make the down payment, he went to Namco. He was told the money wasn't there — he would have to wait. After repeated entreaties, one of Namvar's brothers gave him $60,000.

It wasn't nearly enough, and the escrow fell through. Eshmoili's business suffered a setback, and he couldn't draw on his savings to pay living expenses. So he fell behind on the payments on his small condominium and went into default. His credit score — once perfect — plummeted.

He is still living without a cushion, and without health insurance. The bankruptcy trustee is suing him to recover the $60,000, so it can be distributed evenly to the other creditors. He doesn't have it.

Despite all he has been through, Eshmoili continued to believe in Namvar until only a few months ago. Losing his belief meant admitting he had been duped. But he still hasn't given up hope that he will recover his savings.

"I will never forget my money," he says. "Until the day I die, I will be after my money."

Amid the collapse, Eshmoili's engagement fell through. He would prefer not to say too much about it, except that he is certain he would be married today if he had been able to buy the house in Brentwood.

Instead, he is still living in the condo in the Fairfax area with his daughter, now 14.

"She knows what I have lost," he says. "She refuses to spend money. Even on the smallest thing, even $5. That is sad. She asks, 'Daddy, are we poor?' I say, 'No, we are not. As long as I have you, I am a very rich man.'"

The creditors continue to fight over whether Assil was correct to force the bankruptcy. To some, he was extremely brave. If he had not done what he did, Namvar might have been allowed to dissipate whatever was left of the estate. Thanks to him, the creditors will at least get something — maybe between 5 percent and 15 percent of what they lost.

But many others believe Assil made a mistake by tying Namvar's hands. The bankruptcy trustees have consumed more than $20 million in fees for attorneys and forensic accountants. Many believe the trustees have sold off properties at fire-sale prices. So far, the creditors have not received anything.

If he had been given more time, they believe, Namvar would have found a way to pay.

"Ezri is not an angel. He's a terrible person," says Alex Hakakian, one of the creditors who has been most critical of Assil. "At the same time, he was trying to work something out. I think this would have been resolved by now if that was allowed to happen."

Namvar has encouraged this view.

"I was not allowed to participate in the handling of this big ship, or at least the navigating of it," he tells the Weekly by email. "The only people who are benefiting from the bankruptcy are the trustees and their teams of lawyers, accountants and staff. ... I warned the creditors that this would happen if I was put into bankruptcy — that the 'professionals' would devour all the assets, leaving the creditors with nothing. I am afraid that this is what is happening."

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