Ezri Namvar, The "Bernie Madoff of Beverly Hills," Faces Up To 10 Years In Prison
|Photo by Ted Soqui|
Namvar, 60, was a prominent banker and real estate investor in L.A.'s Iranian Jewish community. When the real estate bubble burst in 2008, he was forced into bankruptcy. His victims lost up to $1 billion.
Namvar has been under house arrest since May, when he was convicted of wire fraud. In a sentencing memo filed today, prosecutor Brian Klein noted that Namvar remains "unrepentant."
Klein asked Judge Percy Anderson to impose a 10-year sentence. Klein also asked for a five-year sentence for Namvar's right-hand man, Hamid Tabatabai.
Namvar's attorney, meanwhile, pleaded for lenience. Attorney Marc Harris urged the judge to impose a sentence of zero to six months, arguing that a lengthy sentence would make it impossible for Namvar to repay his victims.
Namvar immigrated from Iran in the 1970s. Following in his father's footsteps, he became a "hard money" lender. He lent funds for real estate investments at high interest rates, which allowed him to pay his depositors higher rates than banks would offer.
In the early 2000s, according to a bankruptcy trustee's report, he went on a real estate buying spree -- putting his depositors' money into reckless and highly speculative investments. When the market turned, much of his portfolio was lost to foreclosure.
Namvar was convicted at trial for taking $21 million from his financial exchange to pay back other depositors.
Harris argued that Namvar intended to pay those depositors back, but was prevented from doing so because he was forced into bankruptcy.
Namvar made the same argument in a July interview with the L.A. Weekly.
"We got into trouble like everybody else -- Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, everybody," he said. "We would have paid everybody off if it wasn't for the bankruptcy."
He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 11.