A Gilbert resident accused of multi-million dollar fraud was involved in California Republican campaigns. Farzaneh Akhavi, 55, is being accused of using her influence to systematically defraud a political hopeful out of $1.6 million. She was charged in a federal indictment of buying a car, a house and two properties for her daughter with money she bilked out of a woman under the guise of launching her political career, according to the report on AZ Central.
Their story continues, reporting Akhavi is also accused of stealing the woman’s identity and using the victim’s name and Social Security number to open credit accounts and take out loans between 2009 and 2013.
Akhavi was arraigned Monday in federal court and pleaded not guilty to the charges. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The indictment refers to the victim only by the initials SRG. But court records showed a federal civil lawsuit was filed against Akhavi last month by a California woman named Soraya Ghalchi, who claimed she was defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the financial scheme.
“(Ghalchi) subsequently discovered that she was a victim of identity theft and that multiple frauds had been committed with her name, Social Security number, identification cards, bank accounts, credit cards and other means,” the lawsuit says. “(She) also discovered a host of liabilities, loans and accounts on her credit report statement, which (she) never knew existed.”
The civil lawsuit details the same vehicle purchase and the establishment of other accounts Akhavi was accused of opening in the criminal indictment. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
Federal authorities said Akhavi befriended Ghalchi and in 2009 convinced her to move from Orange County to Queen Creek “in order to form a partnership business and establish (Ghalchi’s) political career.”
In exchange for rent and utilities, Ghalchi worked for Akhavi as a graphic designer and constructed political signs, banners and pamphlets, the indictment says.
In 2009, Akhavi is accused of taking out a $37,646 loan in Ghalchi’s name for a 2007 Cadillac Escalade. Federal authorities say it was the first of a series of loans, accounts and properties obtained by Akhavi in Ghalchi’s name.
They also said it was the first of many transactions made using the name and bank accounts of a California non-profit called the Cyrus Society, owned by Akhavi’s husband.
The IRS revoked the Cyrus Society’s non-profit status in 2011 for failure to file its annual paperwork, records say.
The Escalade, which authorities say Akhavi drove for years, was registered to the Cyrus Society.
Akhavi in 2009 told Ghalchi that she had found a piece of commercial property near Gilbert worth more than $1.5million and asked her to partner in its purchase, the indictment says.
“Akhavi would not divulge to (Ghalchi) the precise location of the property or the precise terms of the sale of the property,” authorities said in the indictment.
Akhavi reached out to Ghalchi’s brother in New York to fund the purchase. But she told him that the property was located in California and that he would be the sole owner, the indictment says.
But there was no property in Gilbert or California, authorities say.
“Almost immediately after receiving the money from (the Ghalchis), Akhavi began using it for personal use,” according to the indictment, which noted that Akhavi had a balance of about $1,000 in her account before the Ghalchis gave her $420,000. “Akhavi made large cash withdrawals … wrote herself large personal and cashier’s checks … invested in certificate of deposit in her own name … and made multiple transfers to separate bank accounts which she controlled.”
Over the next two years, Akhavi obtained a $211,000 mortgage for the purchase of a home on East Pinot Noir Drive in Ghalchi’s name.
Akhavi later created a fraudulent deed and tried to transfer ownership to her daughter, according to the indictment.
She also instructed the Ghalchis to wire more than $1million to the Cyrus Society account as part of their partnership in the fictional commercial property investment, the indictment says.
Although Ghalchi’sbrother was reluctant to make the transfers, Akhavi convinced him that his sister “opened the account in honor of the biblical King Cyrus, the liberator of the Jewish people,” the indictment says.
Federal authorities said Akhavi transferred the money into accounts owned by her and her daughter. She also gave her daughter $396,000 to buy two properties on Greenfield Road.
Akhavi’s daughter is not named in the indictment.
It’s unclear if Akhavi was involved in any Arizona political activity.
Campaign-finance records show Akhavi has been a frequent donor in California Republican campaigns, giving about $31,000 since 2004.
Finance and property records indicate Akhavi has resided in Mission Viejo and Irvine. In 2012, Akhavi made about $7,500 in direct donations to the California Republican Party.
In her civil suit, Ghalchi said Akhavi refused to repay her and has intentionally withheld the money. She said the Akhavi has told her some of the money was used to invest in unspecified Arizona commercial property.
“(Ghalchi) was never specifically shown or told where the funds (she) transferred to (Akhavi) went or for what purposes said funds were used, despite repeated requests,” the lawsuit states.
Federal authorities are seeking to seize the two Greenfield Road properties and more than $1.1million in currency from Akhavi as part of the 82-count indictment.