Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott skipped the important June 27 vote to bring Wild Rivers and a golf course to the Great Park and instead flew to Phoenix to testify as a character witness for a campaign donor, Farzeneh Akhavi, being federally prosecuted for defrauding investors of $1.6 million in bogus real estate schemes. From Arizona Republic:
Akhavi said several California politicians were prepared to testify on her behalf and rebut claims made by victims in the case.
“Many upstanding members of California’s political community, including the Mayor Pro Tem of Irvine, were prepared to come forward to dispute (Ghalchi’s) wild tale,” Akhavi said in her motion.
Hard to believe? Yes. True? Yes.
Schott Skips Major Great Park Vote
The Great Park Board of Directors (the Irvine City Council by a different name) met on June 27 to approve an exclusive negotiating agreement with Wild Rivers LLC build and operate the water park in the 250-acre Cultural Terrace located in the southeast portion of the Great Park. Wild Rivers was an Irvine institution that had operated in Irvine 25 years on the old Lion Country Safari site before closing in 2011 so the property could be re-developed.
The GP Board also approved an 18-holes golf course with full-service clubhouse, practice range and support facilities that will generate an estimated $652,000 annually for Irvine.
These are significant milestones in building out the Great Park, but Lynn Schott that it was more important to fly to Arizona in support of a career con artist.
Who Is Farzeneh Akhavi?
Akhavi has been variously known as Frances Akhavi or Frances Meshkin, was an activist and donor in Irvine and OC politics until federal authorities indicted her in 2014. She was an associate of the disgraced Lake Forest Councilman Adam Nick, who has tried bribing elected officials and reporters with cash.
Here in Irvine, she was a friend, donor and close political ally of Lynn Schott.
This Voice of OC article describes a meeting pre-election meeting in 2010 among Jeff Lalloway, Schott and Akhavi:
[Former Irvine Mayor Bill] Vardoulis said he witnessed a dramatic restaurant meeting involving Schott, Lalloway and Frances Akhavi, a Schott ally disliked by some in the party.
Akhavi, Vardoulis said, was shouting at Lalloway and accusing an official with the Irvine Republican Council, an extension of the county GOP, of embezzlement.
“Suddenly I was in the middle of almost a fist fight,” Vardoulis said. “I never saw people so mean and angry, and I’m like — what did I walk into?”
Schott’s Friend Akhavi: A 40 Year Criminal History
Akhavi has a criminal record going back 40 years. In 1978 in Texas she plead guilty to passing bad checks. In 1986 she was arrested for misappropriating fund (the charges were dismissed).
The 2014 federal indictment consisted of 87 counts, including bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. It was enough to send her to prison for life.
Akhavi befriended an Orange County woman named Soraya Ghalchi and persuaded her to move to Arizona. Between 2009 and 2013, Akhavi used Ghalchi’s name and Social Security number to open lines of credit and take out loans.
Akhavi conned Ghalchi and Ghalchi’s brother into investing with her in real estate, and ultimately conned them out of $1.6 million dollars and used the money to buy a Cadillac, a house and two properties for her daughter.
Akhavi eventually struck a deal with federal prosecutors admitting her guilt in defrauding a total of six people and using their money to fund her lavish lifestyle. The 87 fraud counts were reduced to two; she would get no more than three years in prison and her daughter would not be charged; and she agreed to repay $1.2 million.
When Akhavi (who is Iranian) signed the plea deal, she added some characters in Farsi (the language of Iran). Prosecutors translated the Faris writing to learn they meant “innocent.”
That was enough for federal Judge Diane Humetewa to void the agreement and order Akhavi to stand trial and face life imprisonment.
And that is what leads as back to Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott skipping out on her duties as an elected official to be on hand to testify for someone with a decades-long criminal record who had admitted to stealing $1.6 million from six people who had trusted her.
If that doesn’t qualify as colossally bad judgment, what does? Irvine voters who trusted her to make important policy decisions affecting their quality of life deserve some candid answers from Schott about her relationship with Akhavi and why she thinks it so important to be AWOL from her job in order to support someone who has ruined so many lives? If Schott still can’t see Akhavi for who she is, how can she be trusted to make sound judgments as a councilmember?
Irvine citizens can start by e-mail Schott at firstname.lastname@example.org and demand answers.