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Federal authorities are investigating asbestos payments to owner of First National Center in Oklahoma City

First National Center owner Aaron Yashouafar, already awaiting sentencing for embezzlement in Las Vegas, is under federal investigation in connection with questioned reimbursement forms submitted to Oklahoma City officials for asbestos removal funds, sources have told The Oklahoman.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: October 8, 2012 at 9:54 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012
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Yashouafar pleaded guilty in July to a charge of embezzlement after he was accused of diverting insurance proceeds from fire-damaged units at Paradise Spa, where most residents are senior citizens.

Court records show Yashouafar must pay $1 million in restitution to the Paradise Spa residents before his sentencing on Nov. 14. The plea calls for a minimum of 30 days incarceration for Yashouafar, though the judge could impose a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In addition to the $1 million in restitution, the Paradise Spa homeowners' association has $1.8 million in liens on the complex against Yashouafar that they are insisting be paid before he attempts to refinance his $21 million mortgage of property. Bill O'Donnell, president of the Paradise Spa association, told The Oklahoman that Yashouafar is attempting to close on a loan with Los Angeles-based Preferred Bank that would net him $6.5 million.

O'Donnell fears that money will be paid to Capmark instead of to the Paradise residents Yashouafar admitted to victimizing with the diverted insurance proceeds.

More payment deadlines are coming up with the asbestos removal proceeds owed by Yashouafar to Oklahoma City. Williams said about $72,000 is now overdue, with an additional $300,000 payment required on the $1.48 million federal asbestos removal loan in February.

Historic OKC site

Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus said city officials are closely watching the legal maneuverings, noting First National Center is among the city's most historic properties and is in need of extensive renovations.

Claus said prospects for a turnaround for the property, spanning more than 1 million square feet, are not good without public assistance from the city. The tower has restrooms located between floors, broken windows, an unfinished renovation of the ground floor retail arcade, and outdated infrastructure.

The property also is expected to lose half of its income stream when a lease with Devon Energy Corp. expires next summer.

“He (Yashouafar) has a track record that does not fill us with confidence,” Claus said. “It's not just based on what we've seen here, but around the country.”

Claus said Yashouafar would first have to make the city “whole” with current liabilities.

“I think we would have to proceed with extreme caution,” Claus said. “He has a really high threshold in proving to us we should even be interested in partnering with him.”

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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