Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Pattern of Affinity Fraud

Here's a new version of an old story: the SEC has charged a "financial advisor" (heh!) with stealing more than $7.5 million from 11 investors in a Ponzi scheme. link.  The news account says that the scheme "targeted members of the Persian-Jewish community in Los Angeles."  I would surmise that the accused, one Shervin Neman, formerly Shervin Davatgarzadeh, is also a Persian Jew,  So far, little new here. The intriguing part is that appears to be at least the third case in recent months involving Persian Jews in LA link, link

The case intrigues me but let me be clear: I am not for a moment suggesting that there is anything particularly criminal about LA Persian Jews (in all cases it appears that the victims as well as the perps are from the same community).  What we're seeing here is our old friend "affinity fraud," where the crook manipulates a mix of ethnic or cultural loyalty together with a sense of insecurity about, or distrust of, outsiders.  They happen everywhere--that last link above involves a guy labeled "the Madoff of Beverly Hills," after the notorious Bernie, who apparently still leads the league tables in wholesale fleecing.  Actually, I'd say that Madoff is not entirely an affinity fraud: he seems to have cast his net broadly.   But it seems clear that he profited greatly from a theme of "all-in-the-family" trust.  As to all in the family, perhaps the weirdest recent case involved a trusted senior citizen among Ohio's Amish.   

I take it that the world capital of affinity fraud continues to repose among the Mormons in and around Salt Lake City--and I'm impressed to discover the Utah elites appear to have gone public with a campaign against it (see e,g, link, link).  The only interesting question about affinity fraud among Iranian Jews in LA might be, then, the joint questions of "why so many, and why now?"  Is this some kind of developmental thing?--some kind of sociological adolescence that makes a community specially vulnerable to an otherwise general malady?  The deflating answer is that I haven't a clue.  I remember first being aware of Iranians in LA when they picketed outsider the Ahmanson Center at Wilshire and Western in the late 70s and early 80s  (I'd pass them on the way to lunch).  Later I'd observe them at real estate auctions in the bankruptcy court.  Beyond that, zilch.  Nada.  (But cf., e.g., link, link).  My loss I'm sure but in any event, I'd have to assume that the current notoriety is a kind that any community would gladly do without.

1 comment:

marcel said...

A shondah fur de goyim, or however they say it in the Jewish dialect of Farsi.