By Cameron Rasmusson
In the wake of Sandpoint Equities’ purchase of the Sandpoint Center from Columbia Bank, a California businessman is grappling with family history.
Hooshang Namvar, who goes by Sean Namvar, is the manager of Sandpoint Equities, the new owner of the Sandpoint Center following an Aug. 11 sale facilitated by Charthouse Group Holdings Ltd. The largest building in Sandpoint, the Sandpoint Center houses several businesses — including Columbia Bank’s Sandpoint branch — and is a longtime meeting place for local nonprofits.
Following the sale, local residents, some of them angry about Sandpoint Equities’ new policy charging local nonprofits for the use of the community meeting room, raised questions about Namvar’s family background, specifically his connection to his brother, Ezri Namvar.
Labeled by media outlets as “the Bernie Madoff of Beverly Hills,” Ezri Namvar was found guilty in 2011 of defrauding four investors of about $20 million. However, according to the Los Angeles Business Review, that sum is “just a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars he is believed to have bilked out of investors who poured money into his $2.5 billion real estate portfolio before it collapsed in the 2008 market crash.” Ezri Namvar was sentenced later that year to serve seven years in federal prison.
A lawsuit, filed in 2011 by Chapter 11 Trustee Bradley Sharp, sought to spread responsibility to Ezri Namvar’s brothers, including Sean, Mousa, Homayoun (also known as Tony) and Ramin Namvar. However, Sean Namvar insists that his business dealings have been honest and are completely separate from those of his brothers.
“Just because I was named in a lawsuit doesn’t mean that the allegations have any merit,” he said.
The lawsuit alleged that the Namvar brothers used investor money to fund everything from personal business ventures to non-business expenses like Ramin Namvar’s $200,000 wedding party. This was allegedly done by funneling money from investment firm Namco Capital Group to limited liability companies held in family members’ names, with Namco sometimes paid back with interest if a project turned a profit.
“One thing was certain: If (an investment project) was unsuccessful, Namco took the loss,” the lawsuit reads. “In this way, Namco funds were systematically diverted and managed for the benefit of family members, at the expense of Namco’s creditors.”
“Ezri and Tony were officers of Namco,” court documents later state. “It is beyond question that their mishandling of funds invested in Namco breached Ezri’s and Tony’s fiduciary duties, and that the other Namvar Brothers knowingly and intentionally encouraged, assisted, participated in and enabled these breaches of fiduciary duty.”
On July 22, 2016, U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell issued a judgment in favor of Namco Liquidating Trust. However, Sean Namvar was not among the brothers required to pay restitution. Instead, O’Connell ordered that Tony Namvar pay $971,684.12 and Ramin Namvar pay $390,844.26.
According to Sean Namvar, it’s standard practice to name as many defendants as possible in lawsuits seeking to recoup losses for creditors.
“They do a blanket lawsuit to loot the estate,” he said
Namvar believes the strongest evidence in his defense is that banks and businesses are willing to work with him. He said his troubled family history reliably comes up in the course of brokering a transaction, and the deal with Columbia Bank was no exception. However, business associates eventually become comfortable with his credit and his good faith.
“In fact, I am approved and working with over 20 banks that have given me lines of credit,” he said.
He also said his business dealings are not simply about making money — they also fuel his philanthropic activities and personal passions. According to Namvar, that includes the Sandpoint Center. He was impressed by the Sandpoint community and the building itself upon inspecting it, and he aspires to improve it.
“The community of Sandpoint is very important to us, and we want to make sure they’re happy,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re satisfied. We want to make sure the Sandpoint Center is run in a superb way.”
As for the controversy over charging nonprofits meeting room fees, Namvar hopes to work with organizations moving forward. However, he believes charging nonprofits a fee for meeting room use is reasonable given their impact on cleaning and maintenance costs.
“When we looked at the financials, (we saw that) nonprofits constantly come, and they don’t pay anything,” he said. “They should at least have to pay something for the overhead.”