Know the old saying when it rains it pours? Sometimes that applies to the weird coincidences of what kinds of cases you get in the private investigative world.
At one time within about 1 ½ years, three (3) different Iranian clients had me investigate one of their Iranian competitors in their industry; yes, the same exact guy. For a glimpse in what happened in that investigation, see http://janbtucker.com/blog/2011/09/20/saving-america-for-25%C2%A2/
More recently in December, I testified as an expert witness in a trial against an Iranian couple—and I carefully refer to them as a “couple” because a “couple of what” was actually at-issue in the lawsuit: http://janbtucker.com/blog/2014/12/20/mohsen-loghmanis-im-pro-per-performance/. So all of a sudden, within a matter of days, I get in two (2) new cases, both involving (as did the December trial) Iranian defendants; both involve fraudulent transfers of assets allegations and like the December trial, one of them involves whether or not two people are married. The Plaintiff’s trial brief from December, Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation vs Mohsen and Mahshid Loghmani, explains the issue like this:
Defendants will seek to assert that they divorced in 1981 under the misguided belief that this defeats Tessie’s claims. This is a red herring. Even if Defendants could introduce competent, admissible evidence of such a divorce, this is of no consequence. First, Defendants’ newly-developed divorce claim is contradicted by a wealth of contrary evidence, principally representations to the contrary by Defendants themselves (under oath), and precluded by admissions in discovery.
Regardless of whether Defendants are married, the analysis under Plaintiff’s fraudulent conveyance and trust claims is the same. Whether married or not, Mohsen Loghmani transferred assets to Mahshid Loghmani with the intent to defraud Tessie. (Civ. Code § 3439.04(a)(1).) Whether married or not, Mahshid Loghmani took legal title to a property that Defendants intended Mohsen Loghmani to have an equitable interest in. (Fidelity Nat’l Title Ins. Co. v. Schroeder (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 834, 848, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 854, 864.)
Indeed, Defendants’ newly-asserted divorce makes their conduct more fraudulent, not less. Virtually every document executed by Defendants in connection with the acquisition of the Subject Property identifies Defendants as married. If Defendants are not married, then Defendants’ use of Mohsen Loghmani’s funds to purchase and improve the real estate is simply fraud.
When it was convenient for the Defendants to claim they were married, in an attempted bankruptcy filing (that was thrown out of court) to discharge the over $2 million they owed to my clients, they claimed they were married. In other proceedings, like the one I testified in, they claimed they were divorced. How can two such situations be true in the real world? Well, in America they can’t, but they justified their statements on the grounds that despite the entry of a divorce judgment in Illinois obtained on the grounds of intentional cruelty (committed by husband Mohsen against wife Mahshid), they were still married in Iran! I had to testify about (a) the legislative intent of the fraudulent transfer laws themselves which were enacted because of the phenomena reflected in much popular literature, not to mention comedy routines, about “it’s in my wife’s name;” (b) my background, training, education and experience concerning “intentional cruelty” divorces, which virtually never result in reconciliation unless they are bogus to begin with; (c) the similarity of Muslim grounds for divorce in Iran to the Orthodox Jewish problem of obtaining a “get,” i.e. permission from the husband for most divorces.
Mohammed Reza Sahranavard
So fast forward to Sahranavard vs Better World Institute pending in Los Angeles Superior Court. In this case issues arose over the marital status of attorney Mandana Vasseghi (aka Donna Vasseghi) and her client, Mohammad Reza Sahranavard (and his brother Hamid) who was being represented in litigation by her and various other attorneys in a series of litigation actions while it is alleged she was married to Mohammad and at the same time that she was representing my client, who has now become adversarial to Mohammad. Part of the allegations which were spelled out in a motion to disqualify Attorney Kathleen M. Neumann, involve assertions that Neumann and other attorneys to who participated were all controlled by and coordinating with Vasseghi and therefore had conflicts of interest in representing their individual clients and especially my client who’s now being sued by Mohammad and his brother, Hamid.
At this point, let’s review the State Bar Rules that are applicable:
State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct:
Rule 3-310 Avoiding the Representation of Adverse Interests
(A) For purposes of this rule:
(1) “Disclosure” means informing the client or former client of the relevant circumstances and of the actual and reasonably foreseeable adverse consequences to the client or former client;
(2) “Informed written consent” means the client’s or former client’s written agreement to the representation following written disclosure;
(3) “Written” means any writing as defined in Evidence Code section 250.
(B) A member shall not accept or continue representation of a client without providing written disclosure to the client where:
(1) The member has a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with a party or witness in the same matter; or
(2) The member knows or reasonably should know that:
(a) the member previously had a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with a party or witness in the same matter; and
(b) the previous relationship would substantially affect the member’s representation; or
(3) The member has or had a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with another person or entity the member knows or reasonably should know would be affected substantially by resolution of the matter; or
(4) The member has or had a legal, business, financial, or professional interest in the subject matter of the representation.
(C) A member shall not, without the informed written consent of each client:
(1) Accept representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients potentially conflict; or
(2) Accept or continue representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients actually conflict; or
(3) Represent a client in a matter and at the same time in a separate matter accept as a client a person or entity whose interest in the first matter is adverse to the client in the first matter.
(D) A member who represents two or more clients shall not enter into an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients without the informed written consent of each client.
(E) A member shall not, without the informed written consent of the client or former client, accept employment adverse to the client or former client where, by reason of the representation of the client or former client, the member has obtained confidential information material to the employment.
(F) A member shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
(1) There is no interference with the member’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and
(2) Information relating to representation of the client is protected as required by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e); and
(3) The member obtains the client’s informed written consent, provided that no disclosure or consent is required if:
(a) such nondisclosure is otherwise authorized by law; or
(b) the member is rendering legal services on behalf of any public agency which provides legal services to other public agencies or the public.
Rule 3-300 Avoiding Interests Adverse to a Client
A member shall not enter into a business transaction with a client; or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client, unless each of the following requirements has been satisfied:
(A) The transaction or acquisition and its terms are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner which should reasonably have been understood by the client; and
(B) The client is advised in writing that the client may seek the advice of an independent lawyer of the client’s choice and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek that advice; and
(C) The client thereafter consents in writing to the terms of the transaction or the terms of the acquisition.
As far as I’m aware, there was never any effort to comply with Rule 3-310 according to what I know of the case the bold phrases above are of extreme importance to the discussion. As to Rule 3-300, one thing I found out in my investigation is that Attorney Kathleen M. Neumann wound up entering into Deeds of Trust to encumber the equity in Attorney Vasseghi’s home, right around the time that Sahranavard was getting sued by Marcel Pahmer, which started the chain of litigation going on right now and which resulted in a judgment for Pahmer against not only Sahranavard but also Vasseghi, personally.
Whether this is the case remains to be seen, but based upon my background, training, education and experience I can tell you my reader, that it’s not uncommon for corrupt attorneys who are conspiring with their clients to “structure” assets in order to shield them from judgments, liens and attachments use all sorts of methods to encumber those assets. First, by a hand-shake arrangement, they inflate their bills to the client and then enter into Deeds of Trust, Promissory Notes, and in some cases UCC-1 filings to put them first in line, preferably as secured creditors, in the event that litigation puts those assets at risk.
Here’s where the status of the marriage or non marriage gets weird. Apparently, Mohammad and Mandana had a wedding and reception at a Country Club in the United States. They apparently then applied for visas to Iran at that time and sources indicate that the applications indicated that they were married, but now, they are holding themselves out as not married. In light of the Loghmani case, does this sound familiar?
Weirder yet is the background of the other lawyers who are alleged to have been part of the cabal of orchestrated representation of the various parties in the underlying litigation, Behrouz Shafie and Steven Zelig. Both have histories of State Bar disciplinary action.
From the State Bar Journal:
June 18, 2011
BEHROUZ SHAFIE [#108581], 66, of Beverly Hills was suspended for three years, stayed, placed on four years of probation and was ordered to take the MPRE within one year. He received credit for a period of inactive enrollment from July 1, 2008, to Oct. 13, 2009. The order took effect June 18, 2011.
Shafie successfully completed the State Bar Alternative Discipline Program after demonstrating a connection between his mental health issues and his misconduct and stipulating to misconduct in three sets of charges.
He failed to communicate with a client; perform legal services competently, promptly return client files, refund unearned fees and properly maintain client funds and he wrote a check against insufficient funds and misappropriated more than $55,000.
In the misappropriation matter, Shafie represented the wife in a divorce and received a check for $55,028 from the sale of the couple’s assets. His client fired him and hired a new lawyer, requesting that he sign the substitution form, and return her file and her funds. Although Shafie signed the substitution form two months later, he said he needed a court order to turn over the money, which partially belonged to the husband. When the court so ordered, he gave his client a check for $55,028. However, in the intervening months, he allowed the balance in his client trust account to fall to a negative amount, thus misappropriating the funds.
In mitigation, he had no prior discipline record and he cooperated with the bar’s investigation.
February 9, 2012
Steven L. Zelig
STEVEN ZELIG [#94654], 58, of Los Angeles was suspended for one year, stayed, placed on two years of probation and was ordered to take the MRE within one year. The order took effect Feb. 9, 2012.
Zelig stipulated to six counts of misconduct in two cases. In the first, he sued an insurance company after claiming it insured his client for earthquake damage sustained during the Northridge earthquake. Zelig did not dismiss the complaint, and the insurer incurred more than $30,000 in legal expenses. It filed a malicious prosecution claim against Zelig, who reached a settlement in which he agreed to pay $45,000 within 30 days. He did not do so and was sanctioned $8,250. He did not pay the sanction within 30 days as ordered.
Zelig filed separate cross-complaints against various parties in the same litigation without obtaining the court’s permission. He appealed when the court granted motions to strike a cross-complaint, but the appeal was denied on the grounds that it was frivolous. Zelig was sanctioned another $7,500 but did not pay the sanctions or report them to the State Bar within 30 days.
He stipulated that he pursued a frivolous appeal, disobeyed court orders by failing to pay sanctions and he did not report sanctions to the bar within 30 days.
In a second matter, Zelig also stipulated that he disobeyed a court order by failing to pay sanctions on time and he maintained an unjust action. He filed an amended complaint in federal court that included causes of action that had been dismissed. When the opposing side asked for sanctions, Zelig said he erroneously included the causes that were stricken. The court ordered sanctions of $4,032 and found that Zelig’s amended complaint “was made for the improper purpose of causing unnecessary delay and needlessly increasing the cost of litigation.” Zelig paid the sanctions late.
In mitigation, Zelig had no discipline record since his 1980 admission to the bar.