Owner of First National Center in Oklahoma City seeks to avoid jail time

A judge in Las Vegas has been presented with character references that seek to portray Aaron Yashouafar, owner of First National Center in Oklahoma City, as an honest, ethical businessman as he pleads guilty to embezzlement.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: November 13, 2012
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The Village Voice called Aaron Yashouafar one of New York City's “ten worst slumlords.” Tenants staged a revolt against Yashouafar in an upscale high-rise condominium he developed in Las Vegas.

In Oklahoma City, he's viewed with suspicion after city officials discovered what they believed to be fraudulently submitted check copies for reimbursement. And coast to coast, the man best known locally as the owner of First National Center has a history of bankruptcies and foreclosures.

But as Yashouafar faces sentencing on a self-admitted fraud charge over his handling of insurance proceeds for fire-damaged condominiums in Las Vegas, friends and acquaintances have submitted letters to Clark County Judge Carolyn Ellsworth asking for leniency and providing a sharply different portrayal.

In a letter by his bankruptcy attorney David Neale, Yashouafar is portrayed as a businessman honestly striving to arrange successful resolutions to bankruptcies involving Figueroa Tower in Los Angeles and First National Center in Oklahoma City.

The Oct. 30 letter by Neale suggests that despite the payoff of $12 million to Capmark Group that prevented the Oklahoma City landmark from being turned over to a receiver, the property's refinancing is still in question.

“We are trying to refinance the property located in Oklahoma City, and Yashouafar has been integral to those efforts,” Neale wrote. “There are other owners of that project whose financial interests will be placed at risk if Yashouafar is unable to arrange the refinancing necessary for that property.”

Almost all of the character references were written by individuals who are working with or once worked for Yashouafar.

Bea Goodwin Aikens, who once worked as a sales agent at the 45-story Sky Condominiums where Yashouafar faced a tenant protest, wrote that Yashouafar is “a man of integrity and a man of his word.”

“The claims are not reflective of Mr. Yashouafar's moral beliefs and his conduct in this case are not reflective of the kind and ethical man I have come to know over the past eight years,” Aikens wrote.

Another letter, by Yashouafar's attorney H. Joseph Nourmand, speaks of the 20 years they both attended the same synagogue. Nourmand described Yashouafar as “an honest, selfless, caring, generous, humble and kind soul.”

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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