The FBI has arrested a Los Angeles man who allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme targeting the city’s Iranian Jewish community.
Shervin Davatgarzadeh, also known as Shervin Neman, was taken into custody on suspicion of defrauding $3 million from mostly Jewish Iranian-American investors, the FBI said.
According to the indictment, Davatgarzadeh posed as a hedge fund manager promising to invest in the Los Angeles real estate market.
He is suspected of illegally using the investments to pay for a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife that included a $60,000 wedding ring, luxury cars and a new office.
Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles has been rocked by a series of Ponzi schemes in recent years, according to the L.A. Jewish Journal.
A U.S. district court in March sentenced an Iranian-Jewish radio talk show host and businessman, John Farahi, to 10 years in prison for swindling $24 million from dozens of victims, mostly Iranian Jews.
In October 2011, Iranian-Jewish businessman Ezri Namvar was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for stealing $21 million from four clients.
The Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market controversy has reached the federal level, where the Dept. of Agriculture announced it is investigating accusations against Doheny owner Michael Engelmen that he sold meat that was not properly certified as kosher.
Rabbinical councils usually take measures in similar cases, and legal action against improper kosher meat certification is rare.
The controversy hit the headlines last week when a private investigator handed over to the Dept. of Agriculture videos and other material incriminating Engelman.
The investigator, Eric Agaki, said he launched his own probe several months ago after rabbis approached him with the claim that the prices for Doheny Glatt meat was “way too cheap.” Agaki then discovered that workers for Doheny allegedly put improperly certified meat in empty Glatt kosher boxes.
Actor Josh Malina, who played President Martin Sheen’s speechwriter Will Bailey on West Wing and the shrewd sports analyst Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, is also a good guy politically, and wants a better profile for Israel and for Jews in Hollywood.
The Sun Sentinel reports that Malina told donors and leaders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County that the fact that there aren’t positive Jewish role models in Hollywood might be behind the sad phenomenon of so many Jewish college students experience little or no “feeling for Israel and sometimes their own Jewishness.”
Malina was speaking to more than 600 people during “The Event” at Boca West Country Club. The co-star of the new ABC series “Scandal” criticized his fellow Hollywood actors for not embracing Judaism or publicly supporting Israel.
He told his audience about sitting on the dais at a Los Angeles Jewish Federation rally for Jerusalem about 10 years ago, where very few Jewish celebrities on hand.
“Los Angeles is a town where you cannot shake a lulav without hitting a famous Jew,” Malina said. “How could they not be at this rally?”
He said he was appalled when he was told, “If it has anything to do with Israel, they won’t show up.”
He told the audience that his own Jewish identity came from growing up in a Jewish home, going to yeshiva and visiting Israel with his family.
Josh Malina was born in New York City. His parents, Fran and Robert Malina, were founding members of Young Israel of Scarsdale in New Rochelle where he grew up. Josh told an interviewer that the name “Malina,” which sounds more Hispanic than Jewish, is Polish for “raspberry.”
Malina said he and his wife, a convert to Conservative Judaism, raise their children in a Jewish home and with Jewish values.
His support for Israel “isn’t blind or inflexible,” Malina said.
“There are aspects of Israeli society, as there are for any society that could be improved. I think we do our own kids a disservice if we paint everything black and white, right or wrong, us or them,” Malina said, adding that he doesn’t keep those sides of Israel that appear in the news from his children.
Malina told the young parents in the audience to talk at home about all the issues that have to do with Israel, to support Israel and to visit with their kids.
Malina applauded the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s support of Jewish education, for sending teenagers to Israel through the Birthright program, and for their work within the community.
In Hollywood, “the instinct is to avoid controversy,” Malina said, meaning that because Israel is a controversial topic, it doesn’t get covered. He added: “I just think it’s a shame.”
He said he regularly speaks to Jewish groups around the country, and used do a lot of it during his stint on West Wing.
Rabbi Robert Silvers of Congregation B’nai Israel told the Sun Sentinel he was encouraged by Malina’s words. “He said acting is what I do and I have to be true to who I am,” Silvers said. “We can all stand up for Israel.”
Yishai presents an audio piece from the BBC entitled “Tehrangeles”, which talks about the Iranian and Persian existence in Los Angeles. This audio presents a unique perspective on Iranians in LA, especially those that are members of the Persian Jewish community. Be sure to listen in!
The Friedman Law Offices recently hosted a breakfast reception honoring Los Angeles mayoral candidate and the city’s current controller Wendy Greuel. The breakfast was attended by numerous rabbis and other L.A. clergy members, along with special guest speaker Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, the chief judge of Jerusalem’s Rabbinic Court.
Greuel outlined her campaign goals and discussed current city issues. The candidate prefaced her remarks by voicing deep concern regarding the current crisis in Israel and reiterated her longtime and constant support for the people of Israel. She then discussed her positions on various topics of concern to L.A. city residents, including neighborhood security and traffic congestion. Greuel also took questions from audience members.
Andrew Friedman, founder and senior attorney of Friedman Law Offices and a City of Los Angeles fire commissioner, expressed great confidence in Greuel’s mayoral bid.
Rabbi Abergel, the guest speaker, pointed out the many great women who have excelled in Jewish history, including Miriam and Devorah. He blessed Greuel, wishing that her leadership would be in the tradition of these great women.
More than 1,200 members of the Los Angeles Jewish community gathered recently to witness the observance of the mitzvah of petter chamor. Organized and led by Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics, a Los Angeles mohel, the event was held in the immense outdoor courtyard of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu.
Rabbi Lebovics explained the mitzvah of petter chamor, which dates back to the time of yetzias Mitzrayim. As a reward for helping Bnei Yisrael carry their belongings out of Egypt, the donkey is rewarded with a mitzvah of its own; it is the only non-kosher animal whose firstborn is considered to be sacred.
Redeeming a firstborn donkey is first mentioned in Shemos 13:13. A Jew must take his firstborn donkey to a kohen and offer a lamb to the kohen as a redemption, or ransom. One of the basic ideas behind petter chamor is to show hakaras hatov by recognizing the roles that donkeys played during yetzias Mitzrayim. Most kohanim have never performed this ceremony during their lives, and most rabbanim have never had the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah.
Barry Weiss recited the berachah of “…al mitzvas petter chamor” and Rabbi Doron Jacobius, representing the Kornwasser and Hager families, recited the berachah of “…shehechiyanu.” Heshy Jacobs was the honored kohen who accepted the seh for the petter chamor. He then formally acknowledged acceptance of the lamb.
Singing and dancing followed the ceremony. As one person said: “I just had to come. Participating in such a rare mitzvah inspired me, and I’m sure many others, to come.”