Hundreds of protesters have camped out on the lawn of City Hall for 11 days, demanding justice for the banksters who destroyed the economy.
Across the street this morning, at the Spring Street courthouse, a federal judge delivered a small token of what they're looking for, ordering Ezri Namvar to serve seven years in federal prison for stealing $21 million from depositors.
"He gave way to ego and perhaps false pride," Judge Percy Anderson said. "I think he lost his moral compass -- the simple ability to distinguish right from wrong."
Namvar is hardly a household name, but within L.A.'s Persian Jewish community his story is well known. For years, he ran a successful money-lending business, taking deposits and investing in speculative real estate ventures. His business collapsed in the financial crisis of 2008, leaving hundreds of depositors with nearly $1 billion in claimed losses.
Namvar operated well outside the confines of ordinary banking, and his victims could not avail themselves of deposit insurance. Three years later, the case is still working its way through bankruptcy. Victims are expected to receive as little as 5% of their money back.
One of the victims, Judith Laska, told the judge that Namvar had robbed her of her retirement savings.
"Our lifestyles and priorities changed. Now we have to watch every penny," she said. "Mr. Namvar has caused us many sleepless nights, and will continue to affect us for the rest of our lives. He has imposed a life sentence on us of hard labor and suffering."
Namvar's attorney, Marc Harris, argued that Namvar never intended for his victims to lose their money, and asked for probation.
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"He wasn't trying to enrich himself or steal from anyone," Harris said.
Namvar wiped tears from his eyes.
Anderson also sentenced Namvar's right hand man, Hamid Tabatabai, to 21 months in federal custody.
Both were ordered to surrender to authorities on Nov. 8.